Hold Steady plays to audience in Diamond show

BY MATT CARNEY, mcarney@opubco.com Modified: July 10, 2010 at 1:04 am •  Published: July 10, 2010
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Sometimes, bands are specifically meant to be heard live.

For patrons of The Hold Steady’s Friday night show at the Diamond Ballroom, this became apparent midway through "Sequestered in Memphis," the 12th song in a 90-minute set, when lead singer Craig Finn’s lyrical subject matter seemed more real than anything.

"In bar light, she looked alright/In daylight, she looked desperate/That’s alright I was desperate too," he sang as a gaggle of nearing-their-30s women danced, pointed and laughed to stage right.

Wherever it goes, the Brooklyn bar band seems to fit right in because, well, it plays for people who love bars.

Finn grinned a mischievous grin and pointed back at the ladies, a gesture he repeated approximately 537 times Friday night.

He’s a paradox, the singer. Typically a hard-rocking front man dresses in black, oozes cool, and swaggers about the stage like he purchased it by peeling off Ben Franklins and slapping them down one by one.

Not Finn. His usual register is something like a nerd requesting the bully to release him from a headlock. The anti-frontman dresses like everyone else in the venue -- flannel button-down (without sleeves), white Adidas sneakers, miniature black frame glasses, a cheap watch.

He’s got no visible tattoo to speak of, plays air drums and dances like a 12-year-old kid blasting AC/DC on the radio in front of his bathroom mirror.

But all it took was a few seconds of singing, frenetic foot-shuffling and hand-shaking to endear himself to the crowd, which was pumping fists and spilling beer a few seconds into the opener "Constructive Summer." It continued to do so until the first encore break, 19 songs later.

Don’t forget the rest of the band.