Last night I saw The Hold Steady at Terminal 5 with some friends. It was the first time I'd seen them since 2008, and their live show has only gotten better and stronger over time. Craig Finn has really embraced his identity as a rockstar of sorts, and fed off of the incredible energy at T5. The crowd must have been 3:2 guys:girls - almost no groups of only girls within my eye range. But also, the problem with a mostly male crowd is that they are also mostly tall and I am decidedly not. Some view issues aside, it was a great night!
Craig talked to the crowd a lot about how much he loves being in The Hold Steady, and how when he was 30 he quit his office job and decided he wanted to go be in a rock band, and soon he's going to turn 40. He thanked the fans for the past ten years being amazing and hoped that the next ten will be equally great. His overwhelming passion for his profession made me go back and consider the Craig Finn mentality of being a 40-year-old rock star to that of the now-retired LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy's reasons for dissolving the band. Going into the show, I had already felt a similarity between James and Craig - they were success stories of the everyman, proving that you don't have to be a teen sensation to form a really awesome band and it can happen at any time. I loved them both as lyricists and observers of modern culture. LCD wanted to end on a high note, wanted to go back and reclaim the lives they had left behind in their quest to be a band. He went on Colbert and basically said that he didn't see himself being a middleaged rock star - it was too weird for him. While I understood where he was coming from, it was disappointing as a fan, and now in comparison it seems like a weaker reason. Thank goodness not everyone feels that way.
On the event page for the show, there was a long piece about The Hold Steady/Craig Finn. Talking about their latest album, Craig says "It's about how bad it hurts to settle for less. It's about not being scared to try. It's about four guys who still believe in the power and glory of rock and roll. Because even after a thousand soundchecks, a thousand load-in and load-outs, fifty missed birthdays, and a few hundred electrical shocks, our reward still vastly outweighs the struggle. In fact, the reward would not exist without the struggle. Thus, this struggle is inherently part of the reward. And in this way, the fantasy of playing rock and roll for a living is a lot like real life." Over the years, as The Hold Steady has grown and released more albums, they have become less of "that weirdly cool band that sings about Charlemagne" and more of a band that I listen to when I need a little encouragement. They don't want you to settle, they want you to grow. Take a page out of Craig Finn's gospel and get something that actually makes you happy. The singalong songs will be our scriptures.
- That video for "Stay Positive" reminds me of how much I loved Franz Nicolay in The Hold Steady, and this was the first time I had seen them without him as a member. It was sad, but they totally killed this concert.
- Speaking of killing, I really liked the video that was floating around recently of Craig Finn showing up at a Mountain Goats show, mashing a little Hold Steady into "This Year" (I'm going to make it through this year if it kills me...and it almost killed me)