Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Hold Steady - Cheap Girls -- 9:30 Club - April 7 2014

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 would do.
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.

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