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Concert Reviews:
Missing member doesn't loosen Hold Steady's grip at the Crofoot

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2014

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PONTIAC -- The introduction tape for the Hold Steady's show on Wednesday night, April 23, at the Crofoot Ballroom promised, via the Velvet Underground, that band and fans were "gonna have a real good time together."

No lie there -- but it was a little different than the Brooklyn-based critics' darlings planned.

Guitarist Steve Selvidge was absent Thursday after his wife gave birth to a new baby six weeks early. Frontman Craig Finn assured the Crofoot crowd that everyone was health but that a premature birth was serious enough business to require Selvidge's return home. And, Finn promised, he was confident the remaining four members "can make quite a big noise on our now.

No lie there, either.

Being trimmed to a quartet hardly diminished the oomph of the Hold Steady's brawny, barroom brand of rock -- though the bespectacled Finn's sophisticated lyricism and accountant-on-vacation appearance made it more like an Ivy League college barroom kind of experience. Following a powerful and dynamically diverse hour-long opening set by Deer Tick -- whose Ian Patrick O'Neil filled in for Selvidge on two early-set songs ("I Hope This Whole Thing Don't Frighten You" and "Spinners") with the Hold Steady -- Finn and company came out hard with "Hornets! Hornets!" and "Sequestered in Memphis" before dedicating "The Swish" to a front-row fan named Brandon who was attending his 60th Hold Steady show.

"That puts him in first place -- although I've been to most of them," Finn cracked.

The 23-song set, which stretched well past midnight, favored the Hold Steady's new album "Teeth Dreams" as well as 2006's much loved "Boys and Girls in America" -- with fans singing along to the latter's "Chips Ahoy!," "Southtown Girls" and the tender "You Can Make HIm Like You." The new "Ambassador," with its opening line reference to Michigan, went over particularly well at the Crofoot, and the highly familiar crowd rocked along to the likes of "Rock Problems," "The Sweet Part of the City," "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" and "Stay Positive," as well as a cover of Deer Tick's "Easy."

The Hold Steady may not have been at full strength on Thursday, but at 80 percent it was as potent as many of its peers are at 100. As Finn sang at the end of "Rock Problems," it was "just what we wanted."

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