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Live Review: The Hold Steady at Austin’s Mohawk (4/10)

on April 11, 2012, 10:49am

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Nothing like a true rock ‘n’ roll show, and Tuesday night at the Mohawk proved it. Local Austin band The Happen-Ins started the evening off right, bringing a combination of driving guitars and sentimental ballads to the stage. The band wooed audience members with vocal harmonizing and, alternately, lyrics maintaining that “I never said I loved you, girl.” With songs like the popular “No I Won’t Be Your Fool”, the rockabilly four-piece provided a loud, enthusiastic opening for The Hold Steady.

At full dark, Craig Finn and his band of brothers took the stage to massive cheering. Finn leaned in to the mic and said, “It’s April 10th, and this is our first show of 2012. We’re gonna start it the only way we know how.” At this, the band broke into the first familiar chords of “Positive Jam”, and the night spiraled from there. Bearded 30-somethings and high-heeled ladies all simultaneously leaned out over the railings of the three-tiered venue, pounding fists into the air and yelling every word. Finn soaked it in, drawing each line out, clearly enthused to be back with his brethren after going at it a few months solo.

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As Finn danced his trademark moves through songs like “Hurricane J” and “Cattle and the Creeping Things”, the rest of the band appeared rather stoic, struggling perhaps in the whole “with age comes experience” zone that practiced bands like The Hold Steady can sometimes find themselves in. Fortunately, by the time they tore into “You Can Make Him Like You”, the guitarists were fully engaged, including relative newcomer Steve Selvidge. Replacing former member Franz Nicolay’s keyboards (a sad, obvious absence in songs like “Stuck Between Stations”), Selvidge ripped into guitar riffs with unerring consistency.

Finn was in fine form throughout the show, mouthing words off-mic and inviting the audience to sing loudly—“Subpeonaed in Texas, sequestered in Memphis!” could probably be heard for blocks—and also, to be absolutely silent. It’s quite possible the Mohawk has never been as collectively full of held breathes as it was when Finn unfurled, “…youth services always find a way to get their bloody cross into your druggy little messed up teenage life.”

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After a lengthy 20-song set, the night finished with an encore of “Stay Positive” and “How A Resurrection Really Feels”. The crowd was ready to stay forever, just as long as The Hold Steady would let them, taking in every bruised, uplifting acclamation. In farewell, Finn held his hands to the sky, proclaiming, “And that is how a resurrection REALLY feels. Austin Texas, we fucking love you.”

Photography by Ryan Urbanski.

Positive Jam
Stuck Between Stations
Hurricane J
Girls Like Status
Cattle and the Creeping Things
Rock Problems
Constructive Summer
Hot Soft Light
You Can Make Him Like You
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Sequestered In Memphis
Stevie Nix
Multitude of Casualties
The Weekenders
Southtown Girls
Chips Ahoy!
Massive Nights
Slapped Actress
Stay Positive
How A Resurrection Really Feels