Craig Finn’s music has been a huge part of my life since I was 16 ( I will write a piece on that no doubt). A constant through everything thats gone on since then. And it came to no surprise last year when Craig turned up at Minneapolis Public Radio’s event Wits featuring Chuck Klosterman and played a few songs that he described as “not Hold Steady songs” that a solo effort would be announced. And thats exactly what happened as last year drew to a close with the entire effort being streamed by NPR early this year. I won’t go into why and where Craig made the record because thats not really within the remit of this piece plus a quick Google search will come back with enough info on that.
So, to the show. I missed the openers, We Three Death And The Death Rattle because I was in the pub with Craig, Guardian writer Michael Hann (ooh get me with the name dropping) and the entire Unified Scene contingency braving London’s trendy but equally twatish Hoxton area. The Hoxton Bar and kitchen is quite a nice but dark place with a 450 capacity venue in the back (as you do). No idea what the bar range was like because I was being handed Craig’s signature beer “Clear Heart”. A nice dive bar beer thats pretty gassy, not something to be sinking all night.
Craig and Some Guns were on fire even though this was the last date on a tour thats seen them trek the States, UK and parts of lowland Europe. Its also nice to see Craig in a small venue as The Hold Steady have been playing places at least double the size for last 4 years or so. Getting up on stage, Craig takes the audience on a run through of all the dates he and Some Guns have played in the past few months before launching into “No Future” followed in rapid succession by tracks off “Clear Hearts, Full Eyes” that could almost be a soundtrack to the regulars of a dive bar (some of them not far off that idea either). Full of betrayal, betraying, attempted suicide, contemplation about how one ended up where they are. Whilst these songs are nowhere near as jumpy or even as positive as THS’s previous work, the crowd still seemed to be fairly into it. I don’t recall Craig really talking about his divorce in press or live till this album either. In that respect, “Rented Room” is a semi-autobiographical song about that time.
When No One is Watching
Sarah, I’m Surrounded
The Dudes from St. Paul
Going to a Show
New Friend Jesus
Not Much Left of Us
Save Me Jesus (Bobby Charles cover)