The Hold Steady The Phoenix, Toronto ON, April 9

The Hold Steady The Phoenix, Toronto ON, April 9
Photo: Stephen McGill
The Hold Steady are a band that fans have grown up (read: grown older) with. And while this might make for some unfortunate crowd-surfing situations, the band itself has managed to maintain a rock solid live show.

Ten years on from their debut album, the Hold Steady's setlist runs like a greatest hits, in spite of the fact that there are too many live favourites to cram into a single show. Frontman Craig Finn walked on stage to a hero's welcome, clad in black and sporting a fresh haircut, and reminded the crowd that the new record is not one to be ignored with opener "I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You." By the opening chords of the subsequent "Constructive Summer," beers were spilling and joints were circulating, proving that no one near the stage was too old to partake in the raucous shows that the Hold Steady are known for.

Ever a showman, Finn was on point, energetically taunting the audience and flitting around the stage. With additional guitar from new permanent member Steve Selvidge, Finn acknowledged that he rarely picked up the axe anymore, but defiantly led the band into crowd-pleaser "The Swish." If there was a low point in the show, it was probably Teeth Dreams cut "The Ambassador," if only because onlookers seemed at a loss for what to do when jumping around with flailing arms didn't fit the song; many opted for a beer, bathroom or makeout break.

The set was heavy on 2006's Boys and Girls in America, running through most of the track-list — which was rather fitting given that the front half of the venue could have passed for the album cover, complete with arms up, bright lights and the confetti somebody in the front row had the forethought to bring along. "You Can Make Him Like You," "First Night" and "Stuck Between Stations" killed consecutively, while "Chips Ahoy" and "Massive Nights" served as highlights in the five-song encore.

The Hold Steady mean a lot to a lot of people, even if it's just nostalgia for days of harder partying. The level of devotion becomes pretty apparent when you look around and see grown-ass men grabbing each other's faces and screaming the words to "Stevie Nix" into one another's souls — men that will probably be doing the same thing at a Hold Steady show another ten years from now.

The Jesus-y imagery of Craig Finn standing centre stage with outstretched arms and adoring onlookers wasn't lost on anyone when the main set closed out with "How a Resurrection Really Feels." It was an apt choice for a band that really has made a triumphant return this year, and as Finn shouted out in the encore-closing "Stay Positive": it's a pretty good feeling, yeah, it feels pretty good.

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