The Hold Steady
The Hold Steady — often called the greatest bar-rock band in America — are becoming the Grateful Dead of indie rock. In most ways that's a good thing: huge catalog of songs, legendary performances, faithful fans — frontman Craig Finn and company have it all. But like any consistently great live band, long-time fans are willing to overlook an off night every once in a while (or an entire decade, in the case of the Dead).
After seven shows, I'd never seen one until Monday night at the Music Farm, which included an opening set from Nova Scotia indie band Wintersleep. Some thought the energy was lackluster with a smaller-than-expected crowd, while others missed Franz Nicolay, the mustachioed keyboardist who left the band a year ago. To a degree, they were right; the band seemed tired, and the setlist — pulling from their 2004 debut Almost Killed Me on up through this year's Heaven is Whenever — was erratic at times. But the perpetually energetic Finn was still a joy to watch, and the set ended with a strong run of "The Weekenders," "First Night," (with acoustic guitars on the intro) and "Southtown Girls."
Sure, it wasn't the high water mark of the Pour House show two years ago, or even the tiny Savannah club show earlier this year, but on any given night there are few bands I'd rather see. And for most Hold Steady fans, that's always been the point.