CONCERT REVIEW: The Hold Steady & Drive-By Truckers
November 12, 2008
Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead, Pittsburgh
"Gonna walk around and drink some more," yelped the Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn at Carnegie Music Hall last night, but it simply wasn't true. Not in a venue that doesn't allow alcohol sales.
The Hold Steady may be the ultimate bar band, but playing at a dry venue cramped their style a bit. Ushers repeatedly shooed dancing bodies out of the aisles and back to their seats. There were a few flasks making the rounds in the audience, but you couldn't help but imagine what the show might've been like in a different setting. Nonetheless, the band did its part, offering a 90-minute set that pulled from each of their critically-acclaimed albums, with a heavy emphasis on this summer's Stay Positive (though, regrettably, they neglected to play the lively title track.)
Finn was his usual excitable self, running around the stage shouting lyrics even when he wasn't at the mic, looking just one notch below a crazy person. Our personal favorites "Sequestered in Memphis" and "Massive Nights" sounded great.
Guitarist Tad Kubler and keyboardist Franz Nicolay were in fine form, especially when Kubler picked up a 12-string guitar and Nicolay switched to accordion. I couldn't tell if Nicolay was having fun, though - he smiled exactly once, when Finn sang the lyric "Pensacola parties hard with poppers, pills and pepsi" (Anything you'd like to tell us, Franz?)
Co-headliners the Drive-By Truckers were strong. I have to acknowledge I'm not a big fan of that sort of twangy rock sound, but for the first half of their show, they were captivating. The searing guitar solos brought many fans to their feet. The second half dragged, though. Clearly, their 90-minute set length was a bit much.
The bands joined forces for the encore, but it didn't quite come off as well as planned. "Chill Out Tent" was a good idea, but it was impossible to hear DBT's Shonna Tucker. She just doesn't have a singer's voice. She was moving her lips, but nothing was coming out. Either there was a problem with the mic, or she should never be allowed to sing lead again.
The bands closed with "Killer Parties," one of the Hold Steady's most fun songs. But all in all, this was neither a killer party nor a massive night. More like, a pretty decent evening that could never quite realize its full potential.