American rock: The Hold Steady is on its way up
April 9, 2009
The Hold Steady is often described as a similar band to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and singer Craig Finn doesn’t mind.
“It doesn’t bother me in any way,” he said. “I’m a huge fan. Springsteen is a great, vivid storyteller who fronts a great rock ‘n’ roll band, and I hope that’s what we are, too.”
And like Springsteen, The Hold Steady’s forte is its live performances.
The Hold Steady’s Tahoe debut will be a rare Tuesday night concert on April 14 at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. The casino typically has concerts on weekends and shows must end before 10 p.m., when the South Shore Room is transformed to the Vex nightclub. Because it’s playing on a weeknight, The Hold Steady will be able to play a longer show.
Harrah’s was able to book The Hold Steady because the band was in the area on its way to the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, Calif.
Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., The Hold Steady has toured the West Coast “four or five times,” but this will be the band’s first show in a casino, Finn said.
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Concertgoers can expect a blue-collar effort from a group that was described on “Late Night With David Letterman” as “quietly becoming the best rock band in America.”
“It’s based on hard work,” Finn said. “What you see is what you get, and no real smoke and mirrors. It’s getting back to the basics, and giving a real, true performance.”
Formed in 2003, The Hold Steady’s success was a bit unexpected, said Finn, who moved to Brooklyn after his Minneapolis, Minn., band had broken up. He hooked up with some other former Minneapolis residents who had been in what he called “hard-luck bands.”
They decided to start their own group, but did not want to tour or record. However, their first few shows were so successful that they changed their minds.
“The one thing about New York is you’re immediately operating on a national level,” he said. “Once things started happening for us in New York, they really happened quickly in other places.”
They have four studio albums, and on April 7 released a 17-track live album, “Positive Rage.”
The Hold Steady has a huge legion of fans in the Northeast and Midwest. It shared the stage in August 2007 in Ireland with the Rolling Stones, a daunting gig, to be sure.
“No one comes to a Rolling Stones show to see the opening band,” Finn laughed. “The scope of the whole thing was kind of immense ” the stage, the crew and all that.”
The voice of Finn, 37, was described in the Salt Lake Tribune as a blend of Lou Reed and the Replacements’ Paul Westerberg. His songs have recurring lyrical subjects and characters.
“I use that as a device rather than write all the songs from a personal point of view,” he said. “They are more story-based and more cinematic.”
The Hold Steady’s quick ascent coincides with the music business’ metamorphosis.
“We go out there and put everything into our music every night,” Finn said. “The way the industry has changed, making records has become a different thing and live music has become way more important. I think that’s a good thing for us. That’s what we do, we go out there and convert people to our cause.”
Who: The Hold Steady
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14
Where: Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
Tickets: $25 plus fees