Let’s start it with a positive jam.
Always a good idea, and even more so when one of your band’s most popular songs among old-school fans is, yes, “Positive Jam.”
The Hold Steady, being no dummies, launched their show on a Monday night in Salt Lake City–historically no easy sell, no matter the band–with a clarion call of “Positive Jam,” “Stuck Between Stations” and “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You,” a strong mix of old and new from the New York-based crew.
If you weren’t completely on board by the end of that three-song blast to start the show, then you probably were in the wrong place Monday night. The Hold Steady delivered a show at The Urban Lounge that was inspiring for modern-music cynics and a reminder of what killer, straightforward rock and roll is capable of in the right hands.
Frontman Craig Finn and his cohorts in The Hold Steady certainly qualify as “the right hands.” Consummate pros in rocking a crowd, The Hold Steady boys delved into all aspects of their decade-long existence over the course of about two dozen songs. The crowd, surprisingly not a sell-out, ate it up gladly, singing along throughout and waving their drinks in the air in time to the riffs of “You Can Make Him Like You,” “The Swish,” “Sequestered in Memphis” and “Rock and Roll Problems.”
That frenzied scene in front of the stage was pretty much the norm as Finn jerked around the space like the powerful music was giving him seizures. He had a smile on his face all night, and for good reason–the crowd on hand was feeding off his energy and giving it back ten-fold.
The band ripped through a stellar set of favorites, from new songs like “Spinners” and “The Ambassador” from their most recent album, Teeth Dreams, to older fare like “Chips Ahoy,” “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” and the appropriately epic “Massive Nights.”
Finn was in primo rock-evangelist form, exhorting the crowd to sing along and leading his charges through a genuinely thrilling set. He acknowledged the giant posse in the audience wearing home-made t-shirts decorated with Hold Steady lyrics, and delivered on all fronts as a band leader, singer and circus ringleader.
Stretching nearly two hours after their opening notes, the band tackled songs like “Southtown Girls,” “Stay Positive” and “Killer Parties” as they worked their way through a fiery encore as energetic as the main set.
Killer show from beginning to end, courtesy of a band seemingly incapable of putting in a boring night’s work.