Wednesday, April 15th, 2009
Review of The Hold Steady's A Positive Rage
FacebookIf you’re looking for anything revelatory or even revealing about The Hold Steady in the video portion of their new live document A Positive Rage, you’ll likely be disappointed. Over the course of just under an hour, the doc follows the band on tour in the Fall of 2006, in support of Boys & Girls In America, as they marvel at the size of the venues they’re selling out and dispensing their no frills, rock & roll gospel.
There’s no dirt to be found because, unless they saved their goat sacrifices for after the camera stopped, there is none. They’re exactly as they appear to be onstage and on record – five normal guys who just want to play rock and have a good time. And if that’s what you want to kick back and watch for 60 minutes, then this is just the ticket. The performances do a good job of capturing the spirit of The Hold Steady live, their energy, Craig Finn’s onstage antics, the enthusiasm and chaos of the audience. The sound isn’t always terrific, but again – that’s part of it. And if you’re curious, the Toronto stop on that tour – October 28, 2006 at the Horseshoe – is represented by a couple of split-second shots. Whoo!
The audio portion of the package actually doesn’t quite synch up with the video as it captures a show at the Metro in Chicago from October 2007, a full year after the tour in the film, but fortunately (?) their show never seems to change much. It does manage to capture a lot of what makes a live Hold Steady show great, less the visuals, but with much better sound. I can’t necessarily say that they chose an exceptional show to document, but that’s because the standard for Hold Steady shows is so high that it’s rare that they exceed it – though hell yes it happens – what’s important is that they never fail to meet it. And though one Hold Steady show is very much like the last and the next – I’ve seen them about a half-dozen times, I think I can say that – they’re always great.
What I got most out of watching and listening to A Positive Rage was the confirmation that the magic of a Hold Steady show really only occurs in person, in the room, and it’s the alchemy of beer, sweat, spit and, to use the band’s favourite word, the joy that makes their shows so very special and enjoyable. I realize that even as much as the band are touring machines, not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to see them live so for them, the live set is a worthy substitute. But for those who’ve experienced the glory in person, it’ll just makes you anxious for them to come to town again.
Radio Exile has an interview with The Rural Alberta Advantage, who twittered a couple days ago about “big big raa news” to be announced soon, but have yet to follow up. One can only speculate that it’s along the lines of people no longer being able to say, “how are they still unsigned?!?” incredulously, but who knows. Maybe they just thought this downloadable and watchable session at Hear Ya went really well. Or maybe they just had a really great cheeseburger.
NPR has an interview with and is streaming Camera Obscura’s new album My Maudlin Career a week before its April 21 release. They’re at Lee’s Palace on June 27 with Anni Rossi as support. Scotland On Sunday has an interview with Tracyanne Campbell.
I had thought that Sky Larkin’s excellent The Golden Spike was supposed to be available in North America this week, but can’t seem to find any online vendors who have it domestically. Regardless, it’s coming soon and you can stream it at Last.FM. There’s also a new video to grok.
Chart talks to Robyn Hitchcock, whose show at the Mod Club tomorrow night has sadly been postponed due to illness. Refunds available at point of purchase or you can use them at the rescheduled date, which should be announced soon. I’ll contact contest winners after a new date has been announced and see if they can still make the new date.