Saturday night I went to see The Hold Steady, the second time I've seen the band in the past six months. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that I have an ongoing love affair with The Hold Steady. They are, without question, my favorite rock 'n roll band working today, and their concert back in March was easily one of the highlights of my year. So it pains me to write that Saturday night was a letdown. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I don't think so. I know what this band is capable of delivering. And they simply didn't deliver. On the positive side, let me extend kudos to guitarist Tad Kubler, who is my power-chord hero. Kubler alone almost carried the show. But overall I have to confess to some disappointment, primarily because singer/songwriter Craig Finn appears hellbent on living up to the self-destructive lifestyle he writes about. Staggering about on stage, forgetting a quarter of the lyrics, and mistiming your vocal entrances isn't my idea of a musical good time.
What is? How about Art Brut, who opened for The Hold Steady and blew them off the stage. I had heard a couple tracks from their first album, but really hadn't paid much attention to them. My mistake. These guys (and girl) are cheeky, droll, witty, and very loud, always a good combination. "Look at us/We formed a band!" goes Art Brut's semi-hit, and that's as concise an encapsulation of what they're about as you will find. Featuring songs that sound like they were each written in ten minutes (and probably were), their set consisted of fifteen three-minute pop/punk anthems overflowing with references to popular culture, about being young, in love, and in love with pop music. Lead singer/songwriter Eddie Argos was part punk, part buffoon, and I loved him. In a world of deadly serious, earnest guys with poetry and guitars, how refreshing to find someone who still thinks that rock 'n roll is fun. Art Brut reminded me of the early B52's, but without the beehive hairdos. They write wonderful songs, and their two (and only two) albums just rocketed to the top of my "Must Acquire Soon, Maybe Today" list.