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The Hold Steady played 2 NYC shows this past Saturday 4/17 (review & setlists)

The Hold Stready live in NYC

By James B. McGrath

For this fourth annual Record Store Day, Brooklyn based band The Hold Steady decided to do something extra special and extra cool for their fans.  Only in the greatest city in the world could a band play two different shows in two different venues in within 3 miles of each other in the same night.  This is a band known for changing its set list night to night while on tour, and they played two completely different shows merely hours apart

I was excited for these shows the minute I bought my two tickets on Wednesday, and the excitement had been building from getting on the train from New Jersey to walking through the doors of the Bowery Ballroom.  Although I have made this journey many times before, with an earlier set time I got to experience the Bowery region of New York City in daylight and must say, like a few other things after a night of drinking, it looks better in the dark.  There was something different in the air of the dimly lit bar that acts as an intermediary, filled with Pabst Blue Ribbon and plaid, between the outside world and the performance area.

J Roddy Walston and the Business opened up the evening with their own rock and roll sound, looking like a punk rock version of Kings of Leon.  This band is well known among Hold Steady faithful and recently signed to Vagrant Records and deserves every bit of accolades that they get.  They even managed to make a Casio piano seem every bit as rock and roll as their long hair and denim jackets. 

From the second The Hold Steady walked onto the stage, a strange familiar feeling came over the room; it was like we were supposed to be there.  There is a seemingly organic and unspoken agreement between the band and the crowd, they know that their fans are going to enjoy the show and the people in attendance know they are going to get a top notch rock and roll show.

Craig Finn told us that he was going to start the show off “the only way we know how” and proceeded to sing along with the crowd through the awkward sing/speak of ‘Positive Jam’.  The crowd dynamic was one thing fairly unique to a Hold Steady show, with ranges in age, creed, color and size but everyone standing shoulder-to-shoulder enjoying every minute of the performance.  The band worked their way through 20 songs spanning all five albums, including five tracks from soon to be released Heaven Is Whenever.  Even with the subtraction of fan favorite Franz Nicolay, the band has not lost a step with the addition of replacement Dan Neustadt and guitarist Steve Selvidge.

This was the first show with the new line up and nobody looked out of place on stage, with Selvidge and the ever-technical Tad Kubler trading solos and lead guitar duties.  There was not much time left between songs for chatter, as the band chose to rock through the 80 minute set.  In lieu of addressing the crowd, Finn took as much opportunity to dance awkwardly at the front of the stage and step back to smile and take in the sold out crowd’s love and devotion for his band.

Instead of heading home after a good few hours of rocking, my night had just begun.  I worked my way to a deli for water to replenish the fluids I lost yelling along to my favorite songs and made my way to the subway.  Forty minutes and 2 subway trains later, I had arrived in Brooklyn, more specifically the hipster capitol of the world – Williamsburg.  The short walk to the Music Hall of Williamsburg had me giddy for the second set from the natives of the neighborhood I was in.

The opener of the second show was Baltimore’s The Oranges Band, who will soon be celebrating their 10th anniversary and were on the bill for The Hold Steady’s second show ever.  The band’s blend on R.E.M. and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists was an entertaining and energetic 45 minutes, with an increasingly rowdier crowd happy to dance along.  But even as the band took to the stage, everyone in the room knew that the climax of the evening was a mere hour away.

The Sweet Part of the City” kicks off the new album and properly started off the second set by the band on this clear, cool Saturday night. With a fresh change of clothes, and a partially new crowd (the front 5 rows held many familiar faces, holdovers from the Bowery Ballroom), Craig Finn began the set serenading us with simply a mic in hand, Kubler and Selvidge assuming the guitar duties.  The final lyric of that song is “we like to play for you” and then the band worked the crowd into fervor with an energetic set list that did not slow down, somehow finding a way to kick it up a notch song after song.  The crowd was decidedly more energetic, and probably drunker this time around – as evidenced by the mosh pit that quickly turned into a group dance session.  This constant movement in the crowd kept up until the closer, “Slapped Actress”, when everyone slowed down a bit and began chants of “Way Oh, way oh way oh, way oh way oh, way oh way oh” brought the band back out for a three song encore.

Individually, these were two of the most entertaining Hold Steady shows I have been to.  Since the two were combined into one epic evening, I was incredibly stoked every step of the way; I was in awe that I got to see my favorite band perform 43 songs over 3 hours across two different sets in two different venues.  Be sure to check out J Roddy Walston and the Business and The Oranges Band, as well as purchase Heaven is Whenever when it comes out on May 4th.

Below is my timeline for the evening as well as both of The Hold Steady’s set lists.

4:47 – Get on the train to New York City

5:37 – Arrive at Penn Station

6:00 – Eat dinner at Congee Restaurant one block from the Bowery Ballroom

6:50 – Take my place at the front of the Bowery Ballroom stage area, almost on the stage.

7:30 to 8:10 – J Roddy Walston and the Business rock the house.

8:45 – Craig Finn strums the first chords of Positive Jam “Starting this off the only way we know how

9:50 – The last gang vocals (“walk on back”) of “How A Resurrection Really Feels” die out and the crowd begins screaming for the band to return to the stage

9:55 – The band returns for an encore

10:05 – The encore ends, I make my way to the Spring St. subway station

10:45 – Arrive at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, I make my way to the front

11:00 to 11:45 – The Oranges Band entertain a crowd chomping at the bit

12:15 – Craig announces this is the first time the band has played two shows in one night and goes right into “The Sweet Part of the City”, the first track off of Heaven is Whenever.

1:30 – Slapped Actress ends and the crowd continues chants of  “Way Oh, way oh way oh, way oh way oh, way oh way oh” until the band returns for a three song encore.

1:45 – The evening comes to a close and every body is smiling

3:30 – I get home and promptly pass out until noon.

Bowery Ballroom 
The Hold Steady (8:45-10:05) 

Positive Jam 
Same Kooks 
Hurricane J 
Cattle and the Creeping Things 
You Can Make Him Like You 
Rock Problems 
Sequestered in Memphis 
Navy Sheets 
Soft in the Center 
Barfruit Blues 
Chips Ahoy! 
Stuck Between Stations 
A Slight Discomfort 
Stay Positive 
Southtown Girls 
How a Resurrection Really Feels 
Massive Nights 
Slapped Actress 

Music Hall of Williamsburg 
The Hold Steady (12:20-1:50) 

The Sweet Part of the City 
Constructive Summer 
Hot Soft Light 
Sequestered in Memphis 
Goin' on a Hike 
The Swish 
Rock Problems 
Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night 
You Can Make Him Like You 
The Weekenders 
massive Nights 
Barely Breathing 
Hurricane J 
Multitude of Casualties 
Stevie Nix 
We Can Get Together 
Stay Positive 
Slapped Actress 
First Night 
Your Little Hoodrat Friend

Reader Comments (5)

new album is a bit of a ZzzzZzz fest, but I would have still liked to see them at Bowery for sure.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterviv

The Hold Steady are amazing live! I've got to download the new album already.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermark

digging these setlists, especially bowerys

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterarrrrr

great band all the way around.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdave

new album is kind of lame

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterben
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