The annual Hold Steady excursion to London got started Friday night, March 8th at the excellent Electric Ballroom smack in the heart of Camden. The band played too many friendly faces as hugs were exchanged, lyrics were shouted and beer/confetti was spilled as fans new and old serenaded the Brooklyn based band.
Before the headliners took the stage though local act Crewel Intentions played a short opening set. Their dramatic rock was in the vein of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds as frontman Chilli Jesson worked up the crowd with chatter and direct singing. The best reaction clearly came during the keyboard flavored “Youth In Overload” which found the early arriving crowd in good spirits before the main event.
The Hold Steady blasted out of the gate with a fantastic start to their three-night England run via high energy offerings of “Constructive Summer” and “Hot Soft Light” as the band (Bobby Drake-drums, Craig Finn- lead vocals, Tad Kubler- guitar, Galen Polivka- bass, Steve Selvidge-guitar, Franz Nicolay-keys) were locked in immediately with Finn announcing how exciting it was to be “looking from the stage and seeing so many people smiling”.
The sold-out audience got their fast clap on to assist the group during “Stevie Nix” before the power riffing of “Multitude of Casualties” dripped languidly into “Sequestered in Memphis”. The band has been recording new songs and releasing them on their bandcamp page before each of the last few mini tours/outings and a few of those got airings this night. On a very positive note “Entitlement Crew” found both fans and the band jumping with palpable energy while on the flipside the rockabilly vibe of “T-Shirt Tux” seemed out of place in the Ballroom.
“Yeah Sapphire” mixed dreams and money around a huge crescendo as “The Weekenders” became a blazer, earning its place as the naming inspiration to this mini-run of shows while “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” found Finn explaining London was essential to the band developing their own story way back in 2007. Nicolay’s harmonica added some shining flourishes to “Southtown Girls” before Kluber started the encore by strumming out the delicate “Citrus”. Things wrapped up with a huge grooving “Swish” a pounding rendition of the punkish “Stay Positive” and a “Killer Parties” finale as the group wrapped up a successful first show of 2019 and announced from the stage that they will be back in London again come 2020.