Rock and roll has always been about maintaining a high, ideally in both the music and in the career of a band. After more than 15 years as a band, The Hold Steady have seemingly figured out how to do both. The bar band indie rockers have stepped back from heavy touring in recent years and replaced it with occasional multi-night shows at more intimate clubs in select cities. This approach has allowed them to maintain the high energy of their shows and also their career, not burning out from the grind. It also results in a celebratory atmosphere whenever they do play, as was the case when the band concluded their 3-night run at the Crocodile in Seattle, WA on Saturday, August 17th.
Warming up the crowd was Portland band Eyelids, a low-key supergroup of sorts whose members have put in time with a range of bands that exude indie rock coolness. Playing songs mainly off their latest album Maybe More, the band deliviered a set of shimmering power pop with plenty of guitar flourishes, infectious harmonies, and soaring melodies to keep heads bouncing along. Songs like “Camelot”, “Falling Eyes”, “It’s About to Go Down”, “Psych #1”, and “Slow It Goes” stayed euphoric as they balanced the timeless, pop-laden rock of Big Star with fuzzier, more psychedelic grooves.
Maybe it was the lack of ventilation keeping the club at jungle levels of heat and humidity, or the fact that there was a punk rock and wrestling block party taking place just outside the club. It could have been that the band had released Thrashing Thru The Passion the day before, their first new album since 2014’s Teeth Dreams, and that this Seattle run of shows was the first in a handful of Constructive Summer appearances for the band over the next month. Whatever it was, the environment felt ripe for a Hold Steady show.
Coming out of the gate with a dramatic “Positive Jam”, the band quickly set the mood before jumping into their power rocker “Stuck Between Stations” and getting fists pumping in the air. New song “Epaulets” featured one of Steve Selvidge’s twangiest riffs with plenty of thrashing from the rest of the band, making a nice segue into the outlaw party anthem “Sequestered in Memphis”. The band tamed their sound for “Hurricane J” before leading the crowd in a massive clap-off and “we’re gonna build something this summer” chorus chant in the Springsteen-meets-punk “Constructive Summer”. Steve Selvidge would lay into some seriously spunky guitar playing on “Star 18” to complement Craig Finn’s spoken word magic, showing off the major role he played on the new material. Selvidge and Tad Kubler would go head to head in a shred-off during “Stevie Nix”, and Kubler would add a dreamy wash of guitar with a Prince “Purple Rain” vibe during “Lord, I’m Discouraged”.
Another new song, “Confusion in the Marketplace”, featured group harmonies and a triumphant punk rock lead guitar line, further solidifying the strength of the band’s new album in the context of their whole body of work. Longtime favorites like “Hornets! Hornets!”, “Chips Ahoy”, “Your Little Hoodrat Friends”, and the grungy “Slapped Actress” would all keep energy levels high in the balmy club, rounding out a set that was properly career-spanning and giving the fans plenty of jubilant rock and roll moments. Certain band members like keyboardist Franz Nicolay often felt too low in the mix, and some songs felt a bit slower than they have historically been played, but beyond that the band sounded sharper than ever.
Sweaty and exuberant, the crowd joined in with the band as they rounded the finish line of a two-hour set with a quadruple whammy of rock and roll goodness with “Blackout Sam”, “Stay Positive”, “Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night”, and the anthemic “Stay Positive”. The latter, with its resilient and spirited chorus best enjoyed while shouting along, was maybe the perfect song to end the show on a high and keep the fans wanting more from one of rock music’s best acts.
Thanks for the well written review !
The Hold Steady are a great example of what’s right about music today….