Art Brut & The Hold Steady | 10.30.07

live_holdsteady.jpg"Little Brother" and "Nag" were definite highlights, with "Good Weekend" the best, and biggest crowd pleaser…all before 8:10 p.m.






The Metro,

The Metro hosted Art Brut and The Hold Steady for the first of two sold-out shows on October 30, along with special guests Federale. There really wasn’t any need for another act on this bill, and, to be honest, Federale didn’t add much.

Federale showcased a heavy, classic-rock sound that had similar instrumental elements of Art Brut and The Hold Steady but lacked the lyrical expertise and unique vocal approaches. In their defense, the guitarist was wearing a "Playback‘s a Bitch" T-shirt, and a good portion of the crowd were genuinely applauding. Art Brut leader Eddie Argos was the most famous fan of all, who, along with some Hold Steady members (and his current Emily Kane), watched Federale from the ground floor. (I at first mistook Argos for the annoying hipster in every crowd who dresses like the band.) Federale’s finale "Corduroy" was their most impressive, and from there, everything was downhill.

Art Brut fired through 14 songs while still managing to throw in an anecdote after, or during, each song, in a 40-minute set. Slide projections provided the Art Brut backdrop, served as a karaoke device, and a displayed funny messages; it introduced the band with "You wanted the best/ but they weren’t available./ Instead I give you…Art Brut." The set opened with the It’s A Bit Complicated highlight, "Pump Up the Volume," in which Argos ponders the musical question, "Is it so wrong/ to break from your kiss/ to turn up a pop song?" He uses the pop song segue to introduce "Bang Bang Rock and Roll," which ends with Argos asking the audience, "Any questions?"

Argos delighted fans with his songs and his wit throughout the set, using a broadcaster-style microphone, which he purchased with an Axl Rose intent and a Jerry Seinfeld outcome. The Seinfeld mic suffered sound issues when Argos jumped through the packed crowd during "Modern Art," leading Argos to realize, "That’s why Seinfeld doesn’t do that." He also used the cord as a jump rope to the beat of "Bad Weekend."

The non-Complicated hits like "Blame It," "18,000 Lira" and "St. Pauli" came across much better live, especially with Argos’s lyrical additions, including his rant about going into a record store dominated by computer games and DVDs: "I fucking hate computer games." His solution: Assigning people to a band. "You three, you’re in a band now. You and you: band. You two, in the back, think of your band name."

The second half of the set drew from all of their best songs. "Little Brother" and "Nag" were definite highlights, with "Good Weekend" the best, and biggest crowd pleaser…all before 8:10 p.m.

The Hold Steady didn’t disappoint, either, and Finn wasn’t shy about talking in between each song as well. Hold Steady came on strong, playing four of the best Boys and Girls in America tracks in a row. After playing "Chips Ahoy," with its chorus of "How I’m supposed to know if you’re high if you won’t let me touch you?/ How I’m supposed to know if you’re high if you even dance?" Finn remarked, "We’ve been playing this one for a while, and I still don’t understand that."

The first of three impressive new songs came with "Magazines," due on a new album in spring’08; on the whole, though, the set list leaned more toward the newer, slightly poppier, piano-driven compositions. Surprisingly, "Southtown Girls" received an extremely positive crowd reaction, and the night took on a fun, lighthearted feel when the band took two takes and still struggled with the timing. "Joke About Jamaica" was not only the best new song, but also a definite show highlight. Finn took a long time explaining the song’s origin, which involves a girl mispronouncing the Led Zeppelin song "D’yer Maker." The song borrows the bouncy reggae rhythm but stays true to narrative, talk-sing style of Finn with lines like, "Runway extended into Sunday."

The night was full of stories, and the best came after "Little Hoodrat Friend," about a 23-year-old from Manchester who went to every show and sang along to every song during their European tour. He was offered the chance to come to the shows free and work the merch table, and then got an offer to come to the United States to work the current tour, which involved getting a passport. Finn said, "So, how this ties into the last song is…I bet there are some sketchy chicks where he’s from."

Finn then went into a quasi-cheesy but very passionate, sweet speech (someone in the background muttered "he’s getting deep on us") about how the Metro used to seem so huge, and here in Chicago there are so many people to thank that he just wants to say, "Thanks for being part of us."

"Certain Songs" was a great way to begin the four-song encore, which also included "Lord Undiscouraged," the last of the new songs with Franz Nicolay on the accordion and the Tad Kubler on double-neck guitar. Kubler performed his guitar solo atop 20 feet of speakers, much to the approval of Argos, who cheered from the balcony like a 12-year-old.

Overall, the night was tremendous; the set lists were nearly perfect, especially with the new Hold Steady songs. I wish time permitted "Direct Hit," and an attempt was made at "Chillout Tent." In the end, The Hold Steady, by switching gears from pure amusement to expressing a sincere enjoyment of performing rock music, left everyone feeling great. | Joseph O’Fallon


Set Lists:

Art Brut

Pump Up the Volume
Bang Bang Rock and Roll
Blame it on the Trains
Bad Weekend
18,000 Lira
St. Pauli
Modern Art
Movin’ to LA/(Winehouse Rehab"snippet)
Little Brother
Post-Soothing Out
Emily Kane
Nag Nag Nag Nag Nag
Good Weekend/Formed a Band

The Hold Steady

Party Pit
You Can Make Him Like You
Chips Ahoy
Massive Night
The Swish
Magazines (new song)
Hot Soft Light
Sweet Payne
Stuck Between Stations
Southtown Girls
Same Kooks
Joke About Jamaica (new song)
Little Hoodrat Friend
(Craig Finn speech)
Positive Jam
How a Resurrection Really Feels

Certain Songs
Lord Undiscouraged (new song)
Most People Are DJs
Killer Parties

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