The Hold Steady @ The Electric Ballroom

6th March 2020

After a long stressful days work there can be nothing quite like the freedom and escapism of a rock and roll show. Tonight gave the latter in abundance as the best bar band of all time came to town for a party which would go on all weekend long. This was night 1 of a 3 night residency in the capital.

But up first was Meggie Brown, an intriguing collective from London. Meggie herself, clad all in black with a jumper and a suit jacket mist have been sweltering under her indoor shades. Band leader led her troupe a merry, jolly and seemingly pointed angles to the crossroads where Madness meets The Fall.

Maggie Brown

Their outfits were just plain odd with an Indie Suggs, Fast-food chef hats and even a cowboy/mariachi clad member. Songs were full of expletives and prompted hand clap bridges were left to die on deaf hands. Overall an overly large ineffective collective which have potential to be better than they currently are.

One band who are their best version of themselves every night, The Hold Steady unassumingly shuffled into the spotlights. Their no frills costumes is what you imagine they wear when not on stage, enhancing their everyman appeal (one man excepted).

The Hold Steady

It’s been a long while since the Hold Steady and I last met. The vocal drawler and band leader Craig Finn may have lost some hair, but thankfully he’s lost none of his stage presence. Often found slamming his guitar in a three way harmonic line or equally with arms wide preaching to his ‘London family’. His low and spoken vocal delivery is so connective that you feel he’s only talking to you. Moustachioed Piano maestro Franz was also back after going AWOL too.

Defiantly different, The Hold Steady do not compromise. Whether that’s their extraordinary verbose storytelling, the tough riffing, piano key tinkling or merely the inhabiting off the soul of Rock and Roll without needing to show off about it. Their brand of melodic rock is dripping with self-crafted mythology, Springsteen after 10 pints wobbling, openness and quite a lot of getting high. They exist on the outside looking in at their lesser contemporaries, being just where they want to be.

The set was a real joy as they took us back down memory lane for a career spanning collection of highlight tracks. Leaning heavily on Boys and Girls in America was always going to go down well, especially Chips Ahoy!, Hot Soft Light and Massive Nights! Equally as good were those longer drawn out ambles of Separation Sunday which featured heavily late in the set, such as Hornets! Hornets! and the epic Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night.

The crowd were all really good natured, respectful but also could get boisterous when baited with some rock and rollin’ riffs. Plenty of wooaahooos, strong clap fills and howling the soundbite lyrics, meant they were kept very busy throughout.

It was a truly honed performance of some fantastic rock and roll rambleshackler’s. Everyone swayed out of the venue with one night ticked off. Most of those I spoke to were either coming back tomorrow…or wishing they were!

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