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The Hold Steady, Manchester Academy 2, 19th October 2014

The first thing that strikes you about Craig Finn, the lead singer with The Hold Steady, is that this guy doesn't look like he's in a rock band. Indeed, short, bespectacled, and with a thinning thatch, he looks bookish, maybe an accountant, or an IT guru. A more than passing resemblance to Woody Allen and football manager Martin O'Neill, you might think.

Indeed, the bookishness extends to the lyrics of the elaborate stories contained within the songs. What other band would have the crowd singing along to a chorus of "Sub peoned in Texas, sequestered in Memphis"?

But don't let this fool you. The Hold Steady can rock with the best, as last night's gig at Manchester Academy 2 demonstrated.

I first came across the band back in the mid-noughties, Shaun, a guy I knew from Stalybridge Buffet Bar, sadly no longer with us, rated them. The title track from their 2008 album 'Stay Positive' then became something of a mantra as I had a bad time that year.

Finn himself struts around the stage, fingers pointing, an in-your-face-sort-of-guy. Two guitars, a bass and drums do the rest. A hard driving sound, the music just envelops you.

Anybody to compare? If you like Springsteen, you might like the Hold Steady. The stories mixed with the music mean they have a similar approach. But whilst Springsteen is an East Coast blue-collar boy, with the stories to reflect, the Hold Steady are from middle America, originating from Minneapolis although now based in Brooklyn. 

You might also have heard their music if you are partial to 'Game of Thrones' - never seen it myself - but they recorded a track for the soundtrack called 'The Bear and the Maiden Fair'. Six albums on, they continue to get better.

Last night's gig at the Academy was excellent, whilst they could have played longer than an hour and 20, we got some great music....


Hold Steady, Craig's quite subdued

Craig Finn, in typical pose

The latest album, out now, is 'Teeth Dreams', from it this is 'Spinners'....




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