If there’s one thing you can’t knock the Hold Steady for – it’s being sloppy. Booking arguably the “best bar band in America” on a Saturday night in a small rock club, things are bound to get rowdy. The Paste Magazine cover boys were in the midst of the fifth night of their spring/summer tour, having made the six-hour voyage east from San Diego to Phoenix’s sweaty Brickhouse.
“Tomorrow night, we’re playing Vegas, and we’ve never been there before," admits the visibly drunk lead singer Craig Finn. “We get in plenty of trouble in Boise.”
The booze was flowing as keyboardist Franz Nicolay (who looks like he just got off the boat from Romania) was drinking wine from the bottle, while bassist Galen Polivka and drummer Bobby Drake were pounding Jim Beam. If you are offended by such actions, don’t see The Hold Steady. With power chords, shout along choruses, and classic rock references, The Hold Steady are a shot in the arm to the whiney indie rock scene they’ve been tossed into. The fans at the Brickhouse were pumping their fists and singing along to what many have considered “sloppy.”
Opening with the “Stuck Between Stations,” Finn appeared to be relishing the moment, charismatically ruling the stage. Finn not only sings his vocals; he animatedly brings each of his lyrics about boys and girls in America to life with flailing arms and twisted faces. It appears he’s confidently coming into his own as one of the boldest and most narrative singers in rock. Perhaps it’s recent performance of "Rosailta" with his idol Bruce Springsteen, that’s assured the Boston College graduate that he rocks.
After admitting to the Arizona fans, “we’re Yankee haters, thanks for 2001, that was awesome ( in reference to the Diamonbacks World Series victory over New York), Finn ( a big time Twins fan) pounded the rest of his Budweiser and let it rip into the group’s back catalog of Almost Killed Me and Separation Sunday. As the crowd continued to drink and the band continued to roar, The Hold Steady hit a sweet spot on a 100 degree night in Phoenix.