Gig Review: The Hold Steady, Manchester Academy 2, 26th February 2008

The Hold Steady @ Manchester Academy 2, 26th Feb 2008Roughly a year ago the Hold Steady played their first ever Manchester gig at Club Academy. It was full of men in their thirties and forties. In fact, it’s entirely possible that Bricking Chick and I were the only two females in the place, not that I’d have noticed because I was too busy dancing. A week later and The Ledge was with me in Sheffield at a riotous gig that he refers to as “the greatest night of [his] life.”

Oh how things change and yet how they stay the same!

Tuesday night the Hold Steady played an NME gig in the Academy 2. The front row, instead of being packed full of middled-aged men (and me), was full of young lads, some escorted by their parents. The average age of the Hold Steady fan had dropped in the course of a year by about 10 years. Not bad really. Too bad my age won’t do the same. It was disturbing yet thrilling. I worried that the atmosphere would change and that the band’s live show, which works so well in a small venue where there is no distance between them and the audience, would suffer. I didn’t really have to worry (although I fear a leap up to the Academy 1 may be disastrous).

First, however, we had to suffer through The Haze. Now, I can’t work out how they ended up on the bill. I can only imagine that the promoter was walking along a quiet London street when he got hit in the head by, I don’t know, a large piece of debris from a Russian satellite as it crashed to Earth, and was so dazed when he got in to the office that he thought it was 1985 and getting The Cult to play was a good idea. I can’t imagine if he’d been in his right mind he’d have booked a band whose entire set consisted of variations on “She Sells Sanctuary,” a song I can almost tolerate when I’m too drunk to know better.

The Hold Steady @ Manchester Academy 2, 26th Feb 2008The Hold Steady were on great form from the start, all smiles, with Craig Finn saying that he wanted to top their last Manchester show, back in July, which he reckoned was an amazing night. I wouldn’t know, but it was great to get a different opening song, the snarling “Hornets! Hornets!” which we’d not seen live before and which led into a raucous “Stuck Between Stations.” At this point they were off, running through a set which was about half Boys & Girls in America, which the crowd sang back, and half Separation Sunday. Keyboard player Franz Nicolay, sporting a beard to go along with his handlebar moustache, was on good form, making eye contact and grinning at most of the front row, and Craig Finn kept exhorting the crowd to clap and dance more, although he seems to have stopped repeating every line he’s just sung away from the microphone for emphasis. I missed it.

The Hold Steady Setlist, Manchester, February 26, 2008Two new songs made the set: “Constructive Summer,” ostensibly about being home from university for the summer and trying to find something to do, and “Stay Positive” which is the title track from their upcoming album (and which we sneakily filmed for you viewing pleasure). While The Ledge reckons “Constructive Summer” sounds like Hüsker Dü, I thought that both songs were very much in the vein of Boys & Girls in America, that is to say, pop rock songs with great singalong choruses. I’m looking forward to hearing them when I can actually make out the lyrics.

Despite having seen the Hold Steady about a half dozen times over the last 13 months, I continue to be amazed at their ability to be playing a gig with the crowd rather than for us. A lot of bands (can you hear me, Pete Doherty) play lip service to breaking down the barrier between themselves and the audience, but most of those other bands want to be rock stars more than anything and they want to be around their fans so they can get fawned over and told how great they are. The Hold Steady, on the other hand, are no different from their audience (except of course for the fact that they’re genius songwriters) because they’re in the room for the same reason that we’re in the room – because a great gig is a thing of joy and because great music soundtracks all the important moments of our lives and getting to experience that music which is, ahem, scratched into our souls, in a live setting, with 1000 other people experiencing the same thing, can be the greatest feeling in the world.

The Hold Steady – Hornets! Hornets!

Video: “Stay Positive”

9 Responses to “Gig Review: The Hold Steady, Manchester Academy 2, 26th February 2008”

  • Butch Says:

    Thanks for the video.

    – – – – – – –

    I gotta a lot of old friends that are getting back in touch
    And it’s a good, good feeling, yeah it feels pretty good
    I get a lot of double takes when I’m coming around the corners
    It’s mostly pretty nice, it’s mostly pretty alright
    Cause most kids give me credit for being down with it
    When it was back in the day
    Back when things were way different
    When the Youth Of Today and the Early 7 Seconds
    Taught me some of life’s most valuable lessons

    There will come a time when the scene will seem less sunny
    It will probably get druggy and the kids will seem too skinny
    Yeah there’s gonna come a time when she’s gonna have to go
    With whoever’s gonna get her the highest
    There’s gonna come a time when the true scene leaders
    Will forget where they came from and get The Big Picture
    ‘Cause the kids at the shows? They’ll have kids of their own
    And these sing-a-long songs will be our scriptures

    We gotta stay positive
    (repeat 3x)

    When the chaperone crowned us the king and the queen
    I knew that we’d arrived at the unified scene,
    All these little lambs from my dreams
    Well they were there too
    Well it’s one thing to start it with a positive jam
    And it’s another thing to see it all through
    You know we couldn’t have even done this
    If it wasn’t for you

    We gotta stay positive
    (repeat 3x)

  • James Says:

    New song sounds goood (extra ‘o’ for effect). More of the same but in a good way. It doesn’t sound one bit like ‘Party Pit’, which can only be a good thing.

    By the way, you guys going to Man Man at the Phoenix in May? If not, why not? They’re spectacular live. It will convert you if you don’t like them already. Pineapple Folk have got some great stuff lined up. Sunset Rubdown, Black Dice, Phosphorescent, Black Mountain, Liars, Silver Jews, Xiu Xiu etc. That’s one god damn hell of a schedule.

  • The Ledge Says:

    Hey, James, how’s it going? I’m not too sure about Stay Positive – it sounds just tooo much like The Hold Steady, like they’ve written a tribute to themselves. S’pretty good, though.

    We might well go down to see Man Man, purely on your recommendation, and I’ll definitely be at the Silver Jews gig, and maybe Xiu Xiu. Will see Sunset Rubdown at ATP.

  • James Says:

    I know what you mean, but it sounds more like their earlier stuff than anything off Boys And Girls In America. I loved BAGIA at first but now, if I feel like listening to The Hold Steady, I put on Separation Sunday.

    I’d hurry up if you’re thinking of going to Man Man. Wegottickets only had 30-odd left when I booked mine. But yeah, the Man Man live show is something that has to be seen to be believed. I know it’s a cliche, but I guarantee that you won’t have seen anything like it before or indeed after. Only thing is, I doubt this one will be able to top seeing them upstairs at the Waldorf two years ago, with about 20 other people all wearing looks of staggered amazement.

  • JustHipper Says:

    Oh we don’t go in for stuff that’s out of the ordinary. It’s all Coldplay for us here.

    Man Man? Hmm…only if it’s seated and they serve tea and cucumber sandwiches.

  • James Says:

    Well if I bring a picnic we can all sit on the floor. Raving it up, Enid Blyton-style!

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