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The Hold Steady @ The Zoo, 09.03.11

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When it comes to flicking through the shelves of CDs at my place to decide what to put on the stereo, more often than not the conversation starts with the following opening:

Girlfriend – “Every time I think there can’t be any more Bruce Springsteen albums, I manage to find another one”.

What can I say? I like The Boss. So anything Springsteen-esque is usually OK with me, especially if you do it well (The Killers’ ‘Sam Town’ being an obvious exclusion) and it’s hard to describe The Hold Steady without mentioning Springsteen. Their sound is very much based on the earlier, more literate, story-telling Bruce, when he was writing five-minute novellas, often trying to cram as many words as humanly possible into a simple pop song, something he hasn’t done as much of since the 80s as he probably should. Think ‘Blinded By The Light’ or ‘Rosalita’ and you’ll get a good idea of what The Hold Steady are all about.

Despite their obvious All-American, fist-pumping, bar band sound, at times there’s a more camp, glam sound that really reminds me of Louis XIV; I think it might be Craig Finn’s voice, which sounds more like Louis XIV’s Jason Hill’s voice rather than the deeper, gravelly tones of Springsteen. Finn might have a guitar slung low around his waist but hardly touches it, instead patrolling the front of the stage and doing a great line in finger-pointing and outstretched arms, playing the role of a Bible-belt preacher in front of a congregation more than a singer-guitarist in a band. And if there’s one thing to take from tonight it’s that as long as you do a lot of finger-pointing and outstretched arms and have a low-slung guitar, you can look like the archetypal rock star, even if you have short hair and wear glasses and it wouldn’t be obvious on first impressions.

They’re a fun band to photograph, particularly Craig Finn, and so I alternate between watching the band and photographing the band over the course of the show; after all it’s The Zoo so it’s not like there’s any first three rule so I’m going to make the most of the opportunity to photograph them. It’s also a refreshing change to see a Brisbane audience really enjoying themselves, something I just don’t see as much as I think I should these days, and this makes for some nice photos towards the end of their set. As I’m leaving the Door Girl suddenly remember that they forgot to give me a contract to sign on the way in. The first item on the contract is something about “first three songs”.  It’s a bit late to be telling me that…

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