Live Reviews

The Hold Steady – Live

London Borderline

“You all having a good time?” asks Joseph McAdam, singer/guitarist of The New York Fund “Having a good time in a quiet way!” Indeed, this is a sleepy Sunday night crowd, but TNYF’s rollicking country-folk tunes deservedly get more than a few feet tapping among those present.

The Borderline is arguably the perfect venue for theirs and The Hold Steady’s Americana-influenced sounds; its worn wooden furnishings and Wild West décor giving the impression of a bar that could have been lifted straight out of Nashville and plonked in the middle of Soho.

‘Reassuring’ may not be the highest of compliments you can pay The Hold Steady, but given the tendency of their recent ‘Boys And Girls In America’ album to practically glue itself to your stereo, it’s hard not to smile as the familiar chorus of the opening ‘Stuck Between Stations’ rings out across the venue.

In fact, The Hold Steady use this sense of familiarity to their advantage. They may be miles from their adopted home of Brooklyn, but tonight they play as if surrounded by their closest friends; with bassist Galen Polivka handing out cigarettes and the occasional beer to the front rows, singer/guitarist Craig Finn leading the audience word-for-word through ‘South Town Girls’, and the whole band joking good-naturedly with the crowd and themselves.

“I wish I’d had corrective surgery – I can’t see through my glasses!” declares guitarist Tad Kubler, before hilarity ensues with Finn’s reply of: “What’s that got to do with a vasectomy?”

Finn may look more like an English teacher than a rock star, but he nevertheless makes for an excellent frontman; jumping around, dancing and frequently pushing aside his microphone stand to sing his rambling, Springsteen-esque verses straight into the faces of a now lively and highly enthusiastic crowd, who clearly know these songs inside out.

By the time he and dapper keyboard player Franz Nicolay return for a second encore of a genuinely heartfelt rendition of old favourite ‘Certain Songs’, there’s no doubt that we’re all having a good time, as well as a sense that The Hold Steady are destined for far larger venues than tonight’s.

Alex Gosman