On a mild spring Tuesday night in lower Manhattan, Craig Finn performed a one-off show on April 4th that was the record release party for We All Want the Same Things. The quaint City Winery played host as the older crowd mixed dinner and drinks with a night of intimate music.
To open the night Anthony D’Amato played a short solo set of folk driven acoustic Americana. The stripped down songs like “Rain On A Strange Roof” have a solo Bruce Springsteen vibe to them with upbeat strumming and harp playing. D’Amato was affable, chatting in between numbers and definitely gained new fans when his half-hour set wrapped up.
Then it was time for Finn and his supporting players to take the stage. This show was special as recently Finn has been touring with his Uptown Controllers band, but on this night the group who helped him record his most recent efforts were playing behind him. Sam Kassirer worked keys, Stuart Bogie played a variety of clarinets/flutes/saxophones while the Brooklyn duo of Jue Russo and Jon Shaw held down the low end. The musical director on this night was also the album’s producer Josh Kaufman on guitar and pairing him with Finn upfront made the combo look more like accountants than rock stars.
The looks didn’t matter though as the collective opened with the best new song from Finn, “Be Honest” with its slow build and affecting lyrics; Finn’s constant theme for the night is summed up in that song’s title and he mentioned it a few times over the course of the evening. “90 Bucks” contained a keyboard solo that sounded like a distorted guitar while “Tangletown” used a sax solo to great ends. Finn used the small setting to tell some stories, as how “Preludes” is about not getting a DUI and a personal tale about the one Lifter Puller track the band pulled out “Nassau Coliseum”.
The Hold Steady did not have any songs played as Finn stayed with his new solo numbers. “Newmyer’s Roof” cooked along while Finn broke out his acoustic for “Jester & June” and “It Hits When It Hits” used a great jazz ending to bleed into a moving version of “Rescue Blues” which was a show highlight. Other numbers didn’t work as well, “Screenwriters School” dragged and didn’t have the power implied while “They Know Where I Live” was reworked to a crawling pace that was played more for laughs than midwestern fear or isolation.
“Trapper Avenue” played the role of set closer as it swelled hugely behind horns and Russo’s excellent powerful drumming. The group ended the night with a double encore that included Finn’s two most impactful recent songs. “Maggie I’ve Been Searching For Our Son” started things with its upbeat pace and fluid narrative and the show ended even more powerfully with the restrained and cinematic “God In Chicago”. Finn is confident and striding high, on this night in his adopted city it showed.
They Know Where I Live
Jester & June
Eventually I Made it to Sioux City
It Hits When It Hits
Nassau Coliseum (Lifter Puller song)
Maggie I’ve Been Searching For Our Son
God In Chicago