While everyone else with the means to grab tickets to the Flaming Lips show on the opening night of Noise Pop Festival was immersed in confetti and balloons. The rest of us Noise Poppers decided to witness The Hold Steady’s lead vocalist Craig Finn hold down the Bottom of the Hill and share his solo material to the sold out crowd. Now I am not a huge Hold Steady fan. I like the 2006 hit album Boys and Girls in America as much as the next guy. There are even a few songs off Separation Sunday and Heaven is Whenever that are pretty good. But I’m not one to actively seek out tickets to see the band. I just can’t relate to the band’s message or “rock party” mentality.
Craig Finn mounted the stage with his fellow band members that helped create Clear Heart Full Eyes, Craig’s first solo album. The album was recorded in 4 months in Austin Texas and was made to be slightly off from the vibe the Hold Steady projects. Now having seen The Hold Steady live and now Craig Finn, I can tell you Finn’s mannerisms are still prevalent. He sings with charismatic emotion, “sings” with his hands, and smiles a lot. Which was very nice considering each song was not fit to be a Hold Steady tune.
Each song was intimate and much gentler than the calmest Hold Steady track. There was a more southern and folk rock style to the performance, making it way more endearing than one would expect. This showcased a part of Finn that I wished I had seen more of. He is, in essence, a storyteller in the shadow of greats like Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen. Even playful songs like New Friend Jesus ended up more engaging than I had expected. To anyone facing the inevitableness of age and maturity or coming to grasps with the balances of the unknown in the future, each of Finn’s songs spoke to you in some way. It was a weirdly hopeful view of growing up and a sorrowing look at the past.
After the show, I was compelled to actually purchase the album. Even if a fraction of his emotion is displayed on the album, it’ll be a refreshing add to my headphones. Or for anyone who enjoys true narrative songwriting.