The Hold Steady - live in Tulsa (Cover Artwork)

The Hold Steady

live in Tulsa (2010)

live show

Every time I go to a Hold Steady show I am faced with the fact that someday I will be old. I'll complain about taxes. I'll probably watch things on CBS. I'll hate my boss, spouse, and probably life in general (I'll probably like the Theory of a Deadman song, unironically). The Hold Steady is my favorite live band ever, but when I'm at a Hold Steady show and I see the 45-year-old straight-laced guy walking around in Dockers and dress shoes, with four t-shirts he bought from the merch stand tied around his waist that he will never wear, I can't help but feel like I'm just a few precious years away from the start of my slow crawl to Lester Burnham-hood.

Which all brings us to November 5 at The Marquee in Tulsa: my third time seeing The Hold Steady, and second time post-Franz. I saw Against Me! in the same venue last summer with Franz and couldn't help but notice that there is really no point to him being there. The songs that are actually built around piano, like "Because of the Shame" and "We're Breaking Up," they don't even play live, so he basically just stands around and claps a lot. He was an integral part of the Hold Steady live show with his playing and backup vocals. There is definitely a huge dynamic missing from the live show and the new album without him around.

The venue was packed with a crazy mix of people in their 30s and 40s, many of them wearing Springsteen shirts, and a bunch of 16-20-year-old scene kids. All the kids filtered out immediately after the first band, Company of Thieves--honestly the worst band I've ever heard--finished. It's a hippie girl in oversized clothes dancing around and singing off key; my friend calls them Edie Brickell and the Shit Bohemians. So by the time the Hold Steady actually came on stage there was about 150 people in the crowd with a median age of 35.

The first part of the set was mainly stuff from Heaven Is Whenever; they opened with "Sweet Part of the City" and "Hurricane J.". I like the new album but it just doesn't translate live nearly as well as the older stuff. They played "Barfruit Blues" and "The Swish"; it's always great to hear stuff from Almost Killed Me. The one-two punch of "Stevie Nix" and "Multitude of Casualties" was great. It was a little surreal during "Stevie Nix": hearing Craig repeat the "33 forever" bit over and over again and see the conviction on the older audience members' faces. I thought about how weird it was that I still relate a lot more to the cheesy, high school melodrama of "Soco Amaretto Lime."

The show really kicked in when the band launched into "Stuck Between Stations." I think that Boys and Girls in America is the band's crowning achievement and that undoubtedly rings true live; those songs just have a completely different energy. They followed "Stations" with "Sequestered in Memphis," "Massive Nights" and "Slapped Actress." To say the set was back-heavy would be the understatement of the century. Craig really let loose doing the same little dances and little lyric changes he's been doing since the first time I saw them in 2007. Tad's seriously randomly lost like 700 pounds since then, though.

After the weakest "encore" chant in concert history, they came out and played "Chips Ahoy," "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" and "Stay Positive." Craig thanked the tiny audience, as he always does, and looked like he meant every word, as he always does. Everyone filed out, the adults noticeably still excited from the two hours of escapism from the shitstorm that is 9-5 they had just enjoyed. I ended up making it out of there with a set list, but not before a group of 40-year-old ladies got the first three.

Set list:

  1. Sweet Part of the City
  2. Hurricane J.
  3. Cattle and the Creeping Things
  4. The Swish
  5. Rock Problems
  6. You Can Make Him Like You
  7. We Can Get Together
  8. Barfruit Blues
  9. Magazines
  10. Constructive Summer
  11. Hot Soft Light
  12. You Gotta Dance...
  13. Stevie Nix
  14. Multitude of Casualties
  15. Lord, I'm Discouraged
  16. The Weekenders
  17. Stuck Between Stations
  18. Sequestered in Memphis
  19. Massive Nights
  20. Slapped Actress
  21. Chips Ahoy
  22. Your Little Hoodrat Friend
  23. Stay Positive