Release Date: Apr 7, 2009
Record label: Vagrant
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative, Live
Listening to the 11-minute closer, ‘Killer Parties’, it becomes absolutely clear what The Hold Steady do that no-one else in the world really does. No, it’s not bringing back E-Street Band-era Springsteen with extra grit and punk (– more than The Arcade Fire could ever manage) or indeed, being the first band to namedrop The Replacements who actually make you (as a UK-citizen) want to give the critically-fellated Minnesotans another chance. No, what Craig Finn does is to extend the Between-Song-Banter until it becomes the song, until it becomes the music, until it becomes The Hold Steady (that epic, un-evolving, fashion-transcending bar-band playing in Heaven).
Some bands cannot be fully appreciated unless you see them live. The Hold Steady are not one of those bands. No, the odd thing about the Hold Steady is that you really need to hear them on disc, in a controlled, confined arena, in order to understand what the hell Craig Finn is on about in a live setting. Once you are able to do that, there aren’t many rock bands that can evoke the feelings of unity and joy that the Hold Steady can on stage.
When a great band is at their peak, there’s nothing else quite like it. They belong to an era, or, in certain cases, an era belongs to them. It would probably be hyperbole to assert that the Hold Steady have reached that level of cultural significance. They aren’t the Beatles or U2. On the ….
Release Date: Available now The two previously unreleased studio tracks are good but not great; the real prize here is the accompanying 53-minute DVD documentary, which follows the band through its 2007 tour of England and the U.S. The concert sequences are fun, but even better is the backstage footage showing the band as it collectively arrives at that holy-shit realization they’re blowing up all over the world, and that they can quit their day jobs. It’s a remarkable snapshot of a band on the cusp of greatness, grabbing for the brass ring.
‘Then this new album, Heaven is Whenever, comes out, and I'm back for a fix. People had their theories about what keyboardist Franz Nicolay's departure would mean, like the band would have to completely re-imagine itself, or something. Franz was always the obvious choice in the game of "One of These Things is Not Like the Other," both musically and visually (you could hang a jacket on that mustache), but it's even clearer now that he was not an outlier to, but a key component of, the band's identity.
At every Hold Steady show, singer Craig Finn has a line he slips in somewhere: "There is so much joy in what we do here." He's been saying this for years, but it took the band a while before that joy was being communicated to large audience and being reciprocated. Despite two wordy and whip-smart records, the band didn't fully hit its stride as performers until recent years. Around the time Finn started writing more choruses and singing more often than speaking his way through his songs, the rest of the Hold Steady became a live force as well, and the boozy, redemptive joy Finn was always going on about became not only believable but downright infectious.