On Tuesday night, The Hold Steady was in town for the first of two big homecoming shows at First Avenue. By far the most Twin Cities-obsessed band on the planet, The Hold Steady throw out so many TC lyrical references that even the most jaded local listener feels in-the-know. Example: Best local reference of the night goes to Craig Finn's dedication of a song to obscure Minnesota Twins sidearmer Pat Neshek. So you can imagine how this highly geeked-out crowd might embrace these guys upon their return home.
First let me back up a sec. Robot Boy was the first of two opening acts. They sounded fine if not a little repetitive. But the real problem here was their stage presence which left something to be desired. Oddly, that something turned out to be an absurdly enthusiastic dancer who suddenly appeared on stage for two songs, quickly drawing the crowd's attention with his unapologetically flamboyant moves. Hard to describe but as the band continued to shoe-gaze, this dancer stole the spotlight for a fleeting moment. I hadn't seen that running-man move in years! He was wearing a First Avenue "Staff" shirt but I'm thinking you can just buy those anywhere and that he probably wasn't an actual employee. Anyway, once he left stage, so went the crowd's attention.
Next up was the always entertaining Sean Tillman (another local musician come home), tonight appearing with Sean Na-Na rather than as his more infamous, and scantily-dressed persona Har Mar Superstar. All the same, Tillman and his band rocked the house with some surprisingly accomplished tunes. But enough with the music already. The highlight of any Sean Tillman appearance is the between song banter, which doubles as an improv stand-up comedy routine. I could quote some of the better lines, but it wouldn't come off in text.
So back to The Hold Steady. I have been really loving their latest release Boys & Girls In America and looking forward to this show for months. Never short in enthusiasm, they played a consistently energetic set of songs mostly pulled from Boys & Girls and Separation Sunday. Hoodrats, Southtown girls, Lyndale, Rainbow Foods and Craig Finn's beloved Mississippi River. They all made an appearance on this night. Finn was in top form weaving story after drug-ridden-Minneapolis-story while branding an enormous dorky grin throughout. He clearly loved playing to such an adoring crowd. How could he not? My only complaint of the night was the surprisingly poor sound mix during The Hold Steady. Muddled is the word for it. Finn's words were hard to make out. My second complaint is that they didn't play "First Night" which is my favorite song from the new album. Or at least I don't remember them playing it. I ended up getting a little toasted by the end, no thanks to the over-sized bottles of beer they serve at First Avenue.
This leads me to another point. I'm beginning to truly dread weeknight concerts. I hate to admit something like this, because I sound like an old fart. I'm only 27. Still a young pup right? I should have the energy and the stamina but I'm finding that I often don't anymore. It's pretty sad. But honestly, who are we kidding? I have an intense passion for live music, but for better or worse, I feel just as strongly about sleep. Doors open at 8pm. After two opening acts, the headliner doesn't even get on stage until 11:30. Add alcohol to that long haul and you can just kiss the rest of the week goodbye. Friday and Saturday night fellas, that's all I'm asking.