The Hold Steady
@ Fibbers, York

If you ever wondered if it would be possible to genetically cross Michael Stipe, Woody Allen and Elvis Costello, you may be interested to pay The Hold Steady a visit. That all 3 great writers can be found in Craig Finn, lead singer, off-mic backing vocalist and generally amusing frontman, is nothing short of a highly entertaining miracle.

Alongside him was… well, we called him “The French Dude”. Franz Nicolay, of nationality unknown to me, looks like the offspring of Rene from ‘Allo ‘Allo and Salvador Dali, and again was tremendously entertaining, as well as making a great musical difference on keys. It may sound like I spent the entire set judging the band members, but I mean all of these comments in a nice way. Seriously, how can you dislike a band who are so visually diverse?

Musically, the band were tight and shifted tempo mid-song so smoothly it was astounding. (Although it all seemed to go a bit sideways in “The Swish”, but this may have even been intentional…)

The lyrics, where I could catch them, were cutting and clever, a fact I’ve solidified subsequently by visiting the band’s website and Myspace. The shame is that, without prior knowledge of the lyrics, much of the songs became lost on me. There was a dedicated hoard of fans crammed in at the front, who knew every word, echo and nuance, even to the extent that a single note of the keys brought out the ‘oracle’ in the room, as Finn pointed out before launching into my personal highlight, “Cattle And The Creeping Things”. Tracks also worth mentioning include “Stuck Between Stations” and “You Can Make Him Like You”.

Finn’s description of The Hold Steady is that “(the band) play rock and roll, I just talk bullshit over them”, which I would agree with. Given, it’s catchy bullshit, but there’s a definite tongue-in-cheek element going on.

I’d recommend anyone to go and see these guys. Their support were spot on and they knew how to play the venue, however small it is. Just make sure you’ve heard some of their tracks before so you can fully appreciate them live.

Watch out for The Hold Steady. They’ve got their first UK album release and may well become a Big Thing.

Set List: Stuck Between Stations, The Swish, Cattle And The Creeping Things, Chips Ahoy!, You Can Make Him Like You, Party Pit, Massive Nights, Hot Soft Light, Multitude Of Casualties, Stevie Nix, Your Little Hoodrat Friend, Southtown Girls. Encores: First Night, Killer Parties.

Simon Middleyard