Hold Steady deliver tight, uplifting Pyramid Scheme Set

11 Sep


WHAT HAPPENED:  Indie Rockers The Hold Steady played a tight 1:45 minute set at Grand Rapids’ Pyramid Scheme last night.

THE SCENE: As has been the case with the band’s numerous West Michigan appearances over the years, the club was filled with die-hard fans ready to shout along with every “whoah-oh-oh” chorus.  The not-quite-packed house in the 450-person venue provided an intimate setting without being claustrophobic. Between the coziness of the venue and the band’s decidedly non-rockstar persona (front man Craig Finn looks more like a high school math teacher than your typical musician), there was virtually no separation between band and audience, making the evening feel much like a gathering of old friends.  As always, the Pyramid Scheme provided intimacy, great sight lines and clear (if slightly loud) sound.  It’s easily one of the three or four best places in Michigan to catch a show.

HIGHLIGHTS:  From the moment the band kicked off with “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You,” from 2014’s Teeth Dreams it was apparent this was going to be a good night.  The band played with energy and, occasionally, ferocity throughout the set with guitarists Tad Kubler and Steve Selvidge trading riffs and solos while Finn worked the ground with manic clapping, fist pumps and extended arm finger pointing.  When Finn strapped on his Fender for a mid-show run with a three-guitar attack, things only got more energetic.  Fan favorite “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” closed the show with the kind of sing-along song that has become the band’s scripture, while a four-song encore highlighted by roaring stomps through “Constructive Summer” and “Stay Positive” capped the night in high style with bassist Galen Polivka playing much of the set from atop an amplifier, surveying the appreciative crowd.

THE OPENER:  Lansing-based Cheap Girls closed out a run of opening gigs with a nifty set of heartland indie rock. Sounding like a scruffier versions of Pearl Jam’s “Corduroy,”  the band’s songs won over the crowd and suggested that these guys might be ready to make the jump to the next level.

FINAL VERDICT:  The Hold Steady came to town with a reputation as one of the best live acts going and the show provided no evidence to the contrary.  While they don’t do anything fancy, they it do it well and few bands have such a genuinely warm connection with an audience.  The band appears to have found it’s groove again after taking a hiatus for most of 2012 and 13 after some sluggish shows in the wake of 2010’s “Heaven is Whenever”.  The general consensus of long time fans was that last night’s show ranked at or near the top of their half-dozen or so West Michigan appearances and reaffirmed the band’s belief that a rock show in an intimate club can be a cathartic experience.  GRADE: A



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