Gig Review: The Hold Steady, Manchester Academy 2, 5th July 2007 / Liverpool Academy 2, 11th July 2007

The Hold Steady @ Liverpool Academy 2Though I knew that neither of these gigs could touch their performance at Sheffield Leadmill back in February, I was still expecting great things from The Hold Steady – they’re pretty much my favourite band of the current decade and, in these eyes, they can do little wrong – not even “Southtown Girls”.

The Manchester gig was sold out and I arrived in the hall just as the band were coming on, having spent the previous hour or so in the bar discovering the consequences of the smoking ban for non-smokers like myself: people you’re having a pleasant coversation with tend to disappear rather suddenly and don’t come back for a good 20 minutes. I assumed they went for a ciggy but maybe they could smell my BO and decided they needed some fresh air. Anyway, I managed to squeeze my way through the throng to about halfway as The Hold Steady were ripping through a scorching “Stuck Between Stations”. Next was “The Swish” – the one song I was most desperate to hear on the night – with it’s swaggering decending guitar riff and thrilling chord changes punctuating the verses. It was monumental. They followed this with “Banging Camp” – another killer riff from Tad Kubler – to complete a quite brilliant opening salvo. From thereon in it was mostly Boys And Girls In America material and it was a fine gig with the band on excellent form and the crowd singing along to the singalong chrouses of “Massive Nights”, “You Can Make Him Like You” and “Southtown Girls” (but not so much to Craig Finn’s breakneck verses), egged on by the highly entertaining Franz Nikolay.

The Hold Steady @ Liverpool Academy 2The Liverpool gig a few days later wasn’t sold out, which was surprising as it was in the relatively small Academy 2, which is probably smaller than Manchester’s Academy 3. We like Liverpool’s Academy 2 a lot: it’s an intimate venue and in the past we’ve seen the likes of The Shins, Broken Social Scene and The Go-Betweens there – bands who, in other cities, would have been selling out much larger venues. Given this, it was inevitable that this was to be a better gig than Manchester. There was the same level of energy and enthusiasm from the band, and from the crowd, but the intimate nature of the gig and a setlist that included “Chicago Looked Tired Last Night”, “Arms And Hearts”, “Positive Jam” and “Knuckles” tipped the balance. “Southtown Girls” was a highlight; though derided by some, it’s a song that really works live, especially with Franz Nikolay’s great harmonica solo. The inclusion in the encore of “Positive Jam” and “Knuckles” from their Almost Killed Me debut was the icing on the cake and the exclusion of traditional closer “Killer Parties” – because they overran – mattered not a jot. Roll on Leeds Festival.

The Hold Steady – The Swish

The Hold Steady – You Can Make Him Like You

3 Responses to “Gig Review: The Hold Steady, Manchester Academy 2, 5th July 2007 / Liverpool Academy 2, 11th July 2007”

  • JustHipper Says:

    Do you keep mentioning people who hate “Southtown Girls” because you’re trying to bait James Yer Mam?

  • James Says:

    If he is, it’s working. I liked this part though…

    “…people you’re having a pleasant coversation with tend to disappear rather suddenly and don’t come back for a good 20 minutes. I assumed they went for a ciggy but maybe they could smell my BO and decided they needed some fresh air.”

    Trust me, it was purely for a nicotine hit. I’d walk out on Jennifer Lopez for a smoke, so you don’t stand a chance.

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