The Hold Steady, The So So Glos at The Garage, 15/10/14

“You all could have stayed home tonight,” says Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn “and you could have been on the internet, on Facebook and twitter, but you decided not to do that; you decided to come out and go to a rock show”.

At the centre of tonight’s performances, from the support onwards, the value and power of rock music itself is at the heart, in the words of the lead singers from both bands and, of course, in the songs themselves.

Opening the show Brooklyn four-piece The So So Glos offer the audience a raw but well executed set of pop-tinged punk rock, the anarchic storm of ‘Son of an American’ being an excellent example of the genre in which they work.

Alex Levine is a charismatic and energetic frontman, singing and playing with obvious enthusiasm, quoting Kurt Cobain on the nature of rock ‘n’ roll and urging a still somewhat stiff audience to loosen up and dance.

While lyrically the band display intelligence and a pleasingly wry sense of humour, the instrumentation as a whole can be overpowering at times, the wall of noise created through Levine’s vigorous bass strumming making some of the songs, especially later in the set, somewhat indistinguishable from each other.

Headliners The Hold Steady perform with exhilarating and unrestrained energy, opening with the slow-burning ‘Positive Jam’, a gem from their first album Almost Killed Me.

Finn plays rhythm electric here and there, but his most captivating moments come as he puts the guitar aside and focuses his attention entirely on the vocal, jumping up and down in front of the microphone and gesticulating wildly with his arms.

The tremendously upbeat and celebratory performance, combined with Finn’s distinctly unusual but enjoyably gruff vocals, conjures a similar atmosphere to that of Springsteen’s early live shows, and the passion and joy with which the audience engages only adds to this impression.

While ‘I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You’ and ‘You Can Make Him Like You’ are particular highlights, the crowd greeting each with a roar of delight before singing along with unreserved enthusiasm to ‘Stay Positive’, the last song of the set before a three song encore, proves the highpoint of the show.

Having summed up the message of the band’s work as a whole with the chorus of that particular song, the five-piece return, closing the night on the bittersweet anthem of ‘Killer Parties’.

The Hold Steady have released numerous acclaimed albums over the last ten years, the most recent being 2014’s Teeth Dreams, but their performance here truly brings that material to life, delivering a night of superb music, truly great rock ‘n’ roll and life-affirming positivity.

More Photos

Words: Malcolm Higgins
Photos: Kenichi Images

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