The Hold Steady | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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"Half the crowd is calling out for 'Born to Run' / And the other half is calling out for 'Born to Lose,'" roars singer-guitarist Craig Finn in "Barfruit Blues." As front man for the Hold Steady, and previously for the late great Minneapolis postpunk band Lifter Puller, Finn has always split the difference: his lyrics combine blue-collar epics and Springsteen-style recurring characters with a scrappy, fuck-you nonchalance that owes more to Johnny Thunders than to the Bard of Asbury Park. Finn now lives in New York City, and his new quartet's debut, The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me (Frenchkiss), plunges into hard rock with the throttle wide open: together Finn, guitarist Tad Kubler (who played bass in Lifter Puller), drummer Judd Counsell, and bassist Galen Polivka evoke AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, and Black Sabbath more than they do any of their white-belted peers. Finn's lyrics remain a focal point: he's still sketching tales of punk kids, nervous creeps ("I been tryin' to get people to call me Sunny D / 'Cause I got the good stuff kids go for"), and inveterate revelers. But this time his cynical ruminations have a broader scope: the 20th-century history lesson in "Positive Jam" races from the 20s ("There were flappers and fruits in white suits") through the 60s ("Some Kennedys got shot while you were screwing San Francisco") and into the 90s ("We were wired and well connected / Put it all down on technology and lost everything we invested"), all in 21 lines. The Thermals headline; the Like Young and Health and Beauty open. Sunday, May 23, 8 PM, Fireside Bowl, 2646 W. Fullerton; 773-486-2700 or 800-594-8499.

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