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Review: 4/13 The Hold Steady at Beachland Ballroom

April 14, 2010 - Andy Gray

I love The Hold Steady, and the band sounded great during a sold-out show Tuesday at the Beachland Ballroom.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can whine a little.

This was the band’s third show at the Beachland in less than two years, and it probably was the weakest of the three. First it’s a different lineup. Keyboard player Franz Nicolay left the band late last year, and he’s replaced in the touring band by Dan Neustadt. THS also added another guitar player to the touring lineup with Steve Selvidge (thanks to The Hold Steady message board, The Unified Scene, for being a source for the names. They aren’t listed anywhere on the "official" parts the Web site, and frontman Craig Finn didn’t introduce them last night).

The keyboards have been pushed into the background, both in the mix and literally. While Nicolay had a prominent place stage right, Neustadt is shoved into a back corner, and his playing seldom asserted itself in the mix. The extra guitar gave some songs a more muscular arrangement – "Charlemagne in Sweatpants" had a Stonesy "Gimme Shelter" vibe – but I missed the keys.

The band also played several songs from its new album, "Heaven Is Whenever," which is due in stores May 4. For a songwriter whose tunes are as lyrically driven as Finn’s, a live setting isn’t the best first introduction. Even with a perfect sound mix, many of the words become indecipherable, especially at the decibel level THS was pumping out last night ("Hello tinnitus my old friend/You’re ringing in my ears again …"). It didn’t help that Finn only introduced one of the new songs.

Fans still got to hear plenty of old favorites in the 23-song set that ran about 90 minutes. There was no "Massive Nights," but "Stuck Between Stations," "Chips Ahoy," "Citrus," "Your Little Hoodrat Friend," "How a Resurrection Really Feels," "Sequestered in Memphis" and "Stay Positve" all made the cut.


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