Wednesday, November 1, 2006

The Hold Steady - The Middle East, Cambridge 10/30/06

The Hold Steady
w/Sean Na Na
The Middle East, Cambridge MA
October 30, 2006

About a year or so ago I started to read some amazing review for
Separation Sunday by the Hold Steady. I decided it was time to check it out and I was glad I did.

Recently the popular music web site Pitchforkmedia.comgave the latest cd by The Hold Steadyits highest review of 2006 for their latest cd "Boys and Girls in America".

The final night of this version of the tour stopped off at the Middle East in Cambridge on Monday night. I snagged up my ticket a few weeks back and as the show approached I dove head first in to Sep. Sunday and Boys+Girls..I was ready. The show was sold out and it was sure to be a grand old time. The reason I felt that way was outside of the pitchfork review the band has been getting some good press for their live shows.

I arrived about 10 minutes before opener Sean Na Na. For a sold out show there was plenty of room to move so I decided I would move 10-15 feet off the front of the stage. Sean Na Na was "okay". Their between song banter was pretty funny and the music was okay. My opinion on them would change later.

After about 40 minutes or so the band left the stage and the change over to the Hold Steady took place. At this point the 574 other people that had tickets decided it was time to arrive and get within 20 feet of the stage. Being on the tall side I moved back a little but felt "I have been here I will stand here".

The Hold Steady walk out to a raucous wave of applause. Singer Craig Finn fiddled with his guitar but found an "issue". So the PA music was brought back up and the band rummaged around the stage for a guitar pedal. After a few minutes they were ready to go and the band launches in to the lead off track from B+Girls "Stuck Between Stations". It freaking rocked...I was pretty close to a jaw on the floor was everything I had hoped for. The song ends...and the bass player has tech issues.

Craig makes a fun joke about how being nice to the opening bands helps when your gear dies you can borrow stuff. So after a few minutes they decide to play a totally different song that just needed keyboards and vocals. After that passes the bass seems to be up and we are off to the races.

For the next little while the band just cooks along. It has its "moments" but all in all I am pleased....until.

..Sean na na decides to show up.

Sean Na Na had been asking for shots during their set and the 5 guys were pretty well off when all was said and done. The guitar player just started walking around the stage..singing various parts..drinking..asking for name it. So barring the "gear issues" the band soldiers on. Shot after shot arrives up on stage. At one point Tad (guitar) even motions "enough already".

So the band(s) proceed to get drunk Guided By Voices style..I mean they are ALL throwing beer/jager shots you name it back. Its getting messy..and flat out uncomfortable.

At one point Craig makes fun of Sean Na Na calling them "star fuckers". The reason being is in the smaller TT the Bears place next door Albert Hammond Jnr (guitar player from the Strokes) was playing. I'd actually pass Albert on my way out of the Middle East but I digress. Craig said..oh Sean Na Na goes next door to Star Fuck. It was kinda funny..but 2 minutes later..the rest of Sean Na Na arrives on "hang". Even more shots are passed the point where Craig actually tosses his into the audience.

Sean Na Na makes total asses of themselves. They all join in on backing vocals for songs. The guitar player takes off his shirt and rolls on the floor, each member takes at LEAST 1,000 flash photos. Some drunk dude (I think from Sean Na Na) starts playing the keyboards...which reminds me..not sure if it was before or after this..but the keyboard cut out and "lost power".

The main set ends and I am kinda put out honestly. The guitar player from Sean Na Na is going to each of the 3 microphones on the front of the stage "COME ON BOSTON..CHEER!!!" People behind me are yelling "get lost" and "wrap it up". He has no clue. The band comes back out on stage and the same shit continues. The singer from Sean Na Na arrives with Craigs glasses on saying he is "Craig" and "how awesome was Sean Na Na". I had been taping the Hold Steady set and at this point I was ready to stop and leave.

The band starts to play and its just sloppy and getting to be embarrassing. When all else fails..pull people up on stage. So by the end of the last song the stage had 40-50 people on it (and its a small stage let alone with gear on it). The club is getting pissed and worried about safety and the lights start to come up. That is my queue to get outta dodge. People behind me are yelling "what the fuck is that?" and "Come on". I knew it had a potential to get ugly..and it was already 12:35 it was time to get in the car for the 45+ minute ride home.

There were moments I felt like I was I was about to "get it". I was about to see what the press had been saying was so great. I can appreciate the bands bonding on the tour and this being the last night of the tour having some "fun" but with the tech issues and the shit that Sean Na Na pulled its gonna be a tough ticket to sell me next time around and especially on a weeknight. The tech issues were so prominent and "long" when they happened I actually was hoping the band would offer a refund.

The cd is one of my favorites of the year and I will have a lifetime to stew over what I liked and didn't like.

The Hold Steady has a potential to be one of those bands that restores your faith in rock and roll and a a live concert experience..but they just didn't have it Monday.


At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 10:59:00 AM , Blogger Dim said...

Wow, man, that sounds like one crazy show!

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 11:48:00 AM , Blogger Ben said...

Shame you were disappointed, I'd sell a part of me to see The Hold Steady. Good blog, man.

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 11:49:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree. I was at that show, and I was really annoyed by Sha Na Na's antics. I was impressed with how tight the Hold Steady was even after all those drinks, but by the end Craig was slurring and missing entire lines, which I don't blame him considering how much liquor was forced on them. In some ways, it was worse then some of the Guided by Voices shows I saw back in the day.

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 1:11:00 PM , Blogger pog mo thoin said...

There is nothing worse than not being professional at your job, and that includes being a rock band! I can dig the whole trashing a hotel room thing but not cancelling shows and acting like asses when they do make it (I am thinking Pete Doherty and Babyshambles not Hold Steady but you get it.)

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 1:25:00 PM , Blogger tim and/or hilary said...

part of being in a rock (for the most part) involves drinking, and if yr at the end of a tour, you may overindulge.

i thought that the Sean Na Na stage swarming (w/ tHS roadies, too) was just good fun, a band blowing off some steam and letting loose. despite the many drinks and technical difficulties, it was a fine rockin' show.

btw, i also thought that Sean Na Na was a damn good band.

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 1:36:00 PM , Blogger March to the Sea said...

dim - it was!

ben - thank you for stopping over and yeah I "WANT" to see them again

anon#1 - I am not calling anyone out but glad someone else kinda felt a little ripped off.

pog - yeah I agree. When Pete does finally over do it that one last time will anyone be shocked? Total shame w/that dude.

Tim - I just felt the Hold Steady should have told em to buzz off. I commed the band for being nice to each other etc. I am no angel either and a drunk hold steady would have been one thing..but the freaking guitar player from SNN pissed me off. I liked SNN even..was glad I taped their set even until the douchebaggery ran wild.

Hold steady is back in MA in December..but its another "last night of the tour" and I'd be really let down if that repeated again.

That being said they have amazing potential to bring back "rock" and a "rock show" on that club level. I was stunned how good Stuck Between Stations was and felt "here we 10 show ever I can tell" and then it just fell apart.

We choose to disagree on some levels..but I do thank you for your comment.

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 4:31:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I would have been drinking heavily too, after all the technical difficulties: Craig's guitar at the beginning of the set, they had to borrow a bass somewhere in the middle, and the keyboards went out briefly towards the end. The show wasn't as good as the Thunderbirds Are Now!/Hold Steady/Constantines tour (also at the Middle East awhile ago, and definitely in my top 5 shows ever) but it was still a pretty good show, despite the end being a little anticlimactic.

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 4:34:00 PM , Anonymous scrib said...

yeah, it was frustrating. i could tell hold steady was good when they actually got to play, but in a couple of hours onstage they spent more time screwing around with snn than actually doing anything. when they came back on for their 'encore' i was really hoping they wouldn't even try. by that time the only one who seemed still able to play was Tad. i had the joy of being right on top of the keyboards we could hear how much he absolutely couldnt play. i almost felt bad for the poor guy though, he really looked surprised that he was that faced. and he was giving away the shots snn kept bringing him. we were wondering if they were actually going to even remember they'd played boston :)
BIG complaint, serious issue...jeremy, who i now have not one drop of respect for, from snn, took over the keyboard while the big dance party was going on on the stage, and hucked the mic and the stand into the front row..where it hit me in the face. so i got up and stood on the side of the stage. someone else was trying to put the stand back on the stage (and get it off their head) so i helped, ony to have jeremy immediatly huck it back into the front row again, where it bashed someone else in the face. now this idiot who's not even part of the bad we came to see is pelting peole with gear. once again we picked up the stand, and mic, and set them off to the side, and that little fucker reached for them again, and that time i fought him for 'em. he was all glaring at scary can a guy so faced he's cross eyed be? so he's playing with one hand, glaring, and trying to wrestle the mic stand away from me with the other hand. he lost.
it's good for him he did because the girl on the floor he'd hit the second time was YELLING 'let him have it! let him have it! if he hits me with it again i'll go up there and beat his face in with it! let him have it!"
she WANTED to fuck him up.
so it could have been ugly. good thing it ended when it did.
all in all i think the biggest problem, aside from the gear problems which were really beyond control, was snn. if they'd stayed off the stage it would have been a good show. that they were good really showed.

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 4:42:00 PM , Anonymous mike said...

I was at the show and thought the Sean Na Na guys were a little annoying. Also, I was hoping the Hold Steady would play their b-side "For Boston" since it's a) a great song and b) they were in beantown!

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 4:47:00 PM , Anonymous Clarence Thomas said...

If you honestly go to a rock show to see a band act "professional" then you pussies in Boston should to Air Supply not The Hold steady. Jesus Christ you sound like a bunch of youth group crybabies.

At Thursday, November 02, 2006 11:38:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw The Hold Steady at their CD release show in NYC, and Sean Na Na blew. The dude was trying so hard to get the crowd into the act, and the fact is his songs don't rock, and his banter between songs is poor man's poo. Point being, the band is probably hurting because night after night they're watching a band outstage them probably to the point of despair.


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