By Kyle Schmitt
Cheap Girls - Melodic hard rock from three guys who
wear black t-shirts and drink Budweiser on-stage. Their approach was
summarized early by singer/bassist Ian Graham's response to a shouted
song request: "We can't play that one tonight. Fucking boring." Cheap
Girls plowed through a set full of self-described "loud rock" that
invited comparison to early Soul Asylum. They remained unrelenting until
the semi-muted intro to "No One to Blame", during which Graham
complained, "I know everyone that there's no need to know." Darker
themes loomed throughout many of their songs - "Sleeping Weather"
touched on substance abuse and rested on Graham's claim that "There
ain't nothin' I'm working for." He and his brother Ben (drummer) produce
a weightier sound than that of a typical power trio, and guitarist Adam
Aymor kept his solos focused, forgoing 10 notes when the right one
The Hold Steady - The Hold Steady played a second,
unplanned encore several years ago at a 9:30 show after their fans
shouted down the house music cuing the night's end; when singer Craig
Finn finally reemerged onstage, he admitted, "I thought we were done."
Stepping back out to 70s-era Lou Reed on Monday night, Finn told the
audience, "As the song says, we're gonna have a real good time
together." A sold-out crowd urged him onward, shouting along with his
exhortations and cheering uptight dance moves that crisscross easily
from gleeful preacher to angry dad. Finn held court with his signature
use of character exposition in "Big Cig" and "Spinners", the first
single off the band's new album Teeth Dreams. That song features what
may be the prototypical Finn lyric: "Once you're out there, anything's
possible/There might be a fight, there might be a miracle." Some older
material suffered, however, from the loss of former keyboardist and band
secret weapon Franz Nicolay. His absence erased the stately chords in
"Stuck Between Stations" and ecstatic buzz of "Stay Positive."
Fortunately, guitarist Steve Selvidge added welcome grit and energy to a
sound that grew too settled on the band's 2010 release Heaven is
Whenever. Selvidge and Tad Kubler traded solos during "Hot Soft Light"
and employed impressive guitar harmonies on "Rock Problems". And Finn
paid tribute to the 9:30 faithful several times, at one point telling
the crowd, "I fucking love it here." When he concluded "The Sweet Part
of the City" by repeatedly proclaiming, "We'd like to play for you", the
Hold Steady's fans left no doubt that they were welcome back any time.