A Stellar Performance

Ending a year of touring with a last gig in London, The Hold Steady are on top form, despite the fact that the Roundhouse show is their biggest headline show yet, and the venue is jam packed. New album, ‘Stay Positive’ was released this summer and of course they play a fair few songs from that, but there’s also a great mix of classic old tracks, kicking off with the brilliant, ‘Hornets! Hornets!”, but it’s the second track, ‘Constructive Summer’ that really works the crowd into a frenzy with the lyrics changed to the motivational chant of, “We’re going to build something this Christmas”. ‘Don’t Let Me Explode’ from ‘Separation Sunday’ makes a surprise appearance as a slow-building, stripped-down mellow tune that provides a break between constant frantic rock songs. Another rare treat is ‘Cheyenne Sunrise’ which was a bonus track on the limited edition version of the new album and is a slow, lingering ballad of sorts. The band blast through rousing rock tunes like, ‘You Can Make Him Like You’, ‘Magazines’ and ‘Your Little Hoodrat Friend’ while the crowd (who are at least 80% male and 10% of the females appear to be there with a partner) raise their hands in unison, clap and yell along. Hold Steady gigs are a very vigorous affair!

While Craig Finn’s centre stage hyperactive antics are always great fun to watch, keyboardist and accordion player Franz Nicolay also steals the show with his miming and interaction with the bassist, occasionally raising a smile or laugh. Guitarist Tad Kubler gets his moment during ‘Lord I’m Discourage’ performing a top solo which he’s given a prompt round of applause for. As if the set hadn’t been good enough, the band then play an encore that’s simply stunning and worth the ticket price alone. The gorgeous ‘Certain Songs’ is followed by big power tune, ‘Stay Positive’ (it would be the new album’s stadium filler if the band played stadiums), then favourite ‘Stuck Between Stations’ followed by the jawdropping ‘First Night’ which moves from a gentle, swaying tearjerker into a frenzied crescendo of passion. Brilliant fun and what better gig to end the year on.