The return of The Hold Steady to a London stage is always something to look forward to, and thankfully Craig Finn and the boys didn’t disappoint on their latest visit to the Capital at Koko last night. They delivered at tight 90 minute set (including encore) that perfectly encapsulated everything that makes them such a great band. Their ability to blend indie rock, pub rock, and straight out stadium sing-a-long rock to an equally good standard means they have few equals currently performing. Kicking off with two songs from their second album ‘Separation Sunday’ – Little Hoodrat Friend and Banging Camp, the set drew material from all their six studio albums, though the biggest showing came from the ‘Boys and Girls in America’ record (six tracks), and hardly left any time to draw a breath before with Killer Parties and a cover of Violent Femmes’ classic American Music (performed with support act The So So Glos ) it was all over.
It was really great gig. The great thing about the current line-up of the band is that the addition of Steve Selvidge as second guitar has freed up Finn to be more of a straight out front man, and allows his wound/unwound spring persona to shine through like some warped preacher guiding his flock.
Highlights? It may sound an obvious choice but Stuck between Stations. It’s been hard to shake the piano of Franz Nicolay from this song, but last night was as perfect a version of the track as I’ve heard and the first time I didn’t miss the piano. Elsewhere, You Can Make Him Like You, Sequestered in Memphis and Spinners also ticked the boxes. But, in truth, there wasn’t a bad song in the set.
It’s been a pretty poor year for records, but if you don’t already own it, Teeth Dreams, The Hold Steady’s latest is one of the better ones, and if you get a chance to see them live, take it.