The Passion of the Weiss

Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. But most of the time, I don't rhyme.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Beards, Cardigans and Glasses

On Tuesday night at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, one thousand hipsters in cardigans, cheap plastic glasses and heavy beards believed that they could be rockstars. The reason: Craig Finn, lead singer of the Hold Steady, a man who looks more like the dean of a law school (click here to see the UCLA dean of law) than a rock star (click here for Finn), but nonetheless managed to deliver one of the devastatingly great rock performances I've ever seen.

You almost see the crowd watching in awe at a dude who looked more at home citing arcane legal arguments than lighting up the minds of hundreds of impressionable concertgoers such as myself. I've been to a lot of shows over the last few years and in my opinion, the only other front man I've seen who can control a crowd like Finn is Jack White. While the nature of their stage presence and the sound of their bands are markedly different, White and Finn share one thing: an unshakable belief in what they're doing and an almost maniacal passion that radiates off of them onstage.

I decided to go to the show in the first place, after reading a review of a Hold Steady concert (scroll to the middle of the page) on the blog Whatevs. The review was perhaps one of the more glowing ones I've ever read and since that blog is definitely one of the most on-point blogs out there, I immediately bought a ticket to go check out the hype. I was not misled.

The album itself that the Hold Steady is touring behind is one of the best albums of last year, "Separation Sunday." While their sound definitely evokes a classic rock-vibe (mid-70s Springsteen is usually what they're compared to), Finn's vocals are delivered almost like a rapper or a slam poet, with frantic hand movements, and gesticulations. He doesn't sing, he almost drunkenly screams lyrics about Hoodrats and Catholicism and a guy named Charlemagne, which doesn't sound so great in theory, but is definitely spectacular in practice.

The best description I've read about Finn is that he's like the drunk guy that calls you at 3:00 a.m. to rant and rave, but no matter how wasted he gets he sounds strangely brilliant. He was so natural on stage that you could practically see the guy next to you turn to his friend and say, "I could totally do that." But he definitely couldn't. No one can. I can only offer him a compliment that I would hope people would one day say about myself: he is a true individual. This quality is unmistakable when you see the band live.

But Finn isn't the only reason to see The Hold Steady. The other members of the band almost turned in quietly spectacular performances. I think Whatev's review summed it up best: "these five dudes operate in such a cohesive fashion that, while you are watching them, you can't really separate any one part from the whole. In the end, you can't really ask more of a band than that."

In particular, The Hold Steady's lead guitarist Tad Kubler was ridiculously great live, delivering some savage guitar riffs throughout the course of the evening, not to mention the fact that he looks almost indentical to Chuck Klosterman. (Kubler: here (on the far left); Klosterman: here)

Ultimately, what I'm getting at is that you need to see this band when they come around next. You can listen to their albums (I also recommend their first work, Almost Killed Me), but their greatness becomes infinitely clearer when you see them live. And seriously, if you go to their show and you don't end up liking them, may I suggest listening to bands like these fools.


At 7:07 AM, Blogger Ian said...

Yeah, I think Klosterman said "Separation Sunday" was his favorite album of 2005. As for me, although we seem to agree on most fronts musically, I think it's wildly overrated. I call it "classic rock for assholes," which explains why Klosterman digs it so much. Sometimes, I play this game with my brother called "make up a Hold Steady song," where I talk in the guy's voice and say stuff like "we drank cheap wine and passed out behind a bowling alley while some hipster girls ate Bear Claws." I could probably fool people into thinking it's a B-side.

At 1:08 PM, Blogger The Humanity Critic said...

Funny, I first came on contact some of those songs recently. I have to agree, dude does look like a dean of some school.

At 1:13 PM, Blogger Passion of the Weiss said...

Yeah, I totally know what you mean about it....The CD definitely gained a new appreciation for me though after seeing them live...I actually hate Springsteen so it took me a while to get into it at first, but it definitely grew on me. I find the lead singer's lyrics pretty funny to which I tend to give major points to anyone funny...see Art Brut, I wouldn't go as far to say that the CD was my favorite of last year or even in my top 10, I'd still take a listen to Go Team or Wolf Parade anyday, but it definitely gets a slot in the album rotation..And with Klosterman, if anyone is on it more I'm not sure who it would be but the man is occasionally flawed..for instance, he doesn't like the Moody Blues..who I think happen to be a very good band. But you should see Hold Steady live anyway, it definitely changed my perspective on that album, as for Les Savy Fav the headliner that night...I didn't have time to get to it in the blog, but they are definitely "post-punk for assholes." Their fat and bald white-beater clad lead singer who looks like this guy at my old college that we called the leprechaun started deep throating a banana on-stage. And at that point I was out.


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