Friday, June 15, 2007

The Hold Steady at the Orpheum Stage Door

E Eugene and I ventured downtown several weeks ago to see the Hold Steady at the sold out Orpheum Stage Door Theater. It was the last of three shows this spring that I was determined to attend. While I wouldn't trade anything for the opportunity to see Ted Leo and the Tragically Hip, I've got to say this was the absolute high point of season. The more I listen to this band, the more I love them. This is the one and only group that I can trace my interest back to NPR - that's National Public Radio for those not in the know. I recall listening to the radio a year or so back, and hearing a piece on a New York band transplanted from the Midwest, and their newest album Separation Sunday. Intrigued, I downloaded the track "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" from Muzzle of Bees. I was hooked. I purchased the album shortly afterwards.

I was even more stoked to get the newest, Boys and Girls in America. It did not disappoint - in fact it exceeded every expectation that I had. So when I saw that they were playing Madison I didn't hesitate to get tickets. Right before I discovered this band, I recall reading a listing that the Hold Steady were playing the Annex with the Constantines opening. I hadn't experienced either band at that point, but hindsight places this show as the Number One missed opportunity in the last several years.

E Eugene and I arrived right as the opening act, the Red Eyed Legends, took the stage. We both agreed that this band was a bit raw, in that they needed to develop their live act a bit more. In the intermission E Eugene and I enjoyed several Furthermore brews that were on tap. The next band was the Heartless Bastards, which really got everyone moving. I would have easily bought one of their albums had I not spent my money elsewhere. It's most certainly going on the list. Interestingly enough, during the second break between bands, I ran into an old acquaintance from Wednesday night poker. Apparently her cousin was in the Hold Steady, and her entire Madison-based family was at the show.

The Hold Steady came on to frenzied enthusiasm, and this was the norm for the rest of the concert. The band was tight, and I knew almost all the songs. Two off of Almost Killed Me were unfamiliar to me, but this was rectified soon after the show, as I bought this from the merch table. The band played every song off of Boys and Girls in America and several off of Separation Sunday. I danced around like I was in high school. It was one of the most energetic shows that I've been to in my life. Even with them playing over half the songs that I knew, I still wanted more. I could have stayed all night.

Yet all good things must come to an end. After the encore, where the guitarist acknowledged his mother in the audience before shotgunning a beer, E Eugene and I made our way to the door. I didn't even consider not purchasing Almost Killed Me, the debut album. I've wanted it for a long time, and it made for excellent listening on the way home. In fact, it has staying in the rotation ever since. If you know me, then you know that's about the biggest endorsement I can give.