What a difference a venue makes. Brooklyn’s finest bar band crushed local audiences twice in the past few years with high-energy shows at Beauty Bar. This was not the case for The Hold Steady’s latest stop. Playing the bigger House of Blues—where tickets are more expensive and the crowd is littered with tourists—there was little connection between the hipster rock outfit and the oft-indifferent spectators. The audience was sparse, as opposed to their previous sold-out Beauty Bar show.
That’s not to say The Hold Steady put on a bad show. They didn’t. The band was tight, flying through a 70-minute main set with soaring guitars and sing-a-long choruses. Highlights abounded from Stay Positive, the 2008 album that brought them fame. “Sequestered in Memphis” had crowd members jumping and pumping fists.
Lead singer Craig Finn’s talk-sing style is unique—as if he’s ordering the audience to obey his lyrics, which are dense with hipster references. His spastic arm movements only add to the pleasure of watching him.
The encore’s best was “Stay Positive,” which is also seemingly the band’s goal. After HOB’s apathetic audience, it might be just a little tougher to do so.