Sunday, September 21, 2008

Live: Hold Steady with The Pretenders @ Sonar, Baltimore 9.19.08

On the heels of the two-pronged rock assault I had undertaken the night before, I was looking forward to a nice tight Hold Steady opening slot and a quiet evening with the sister and brother-in-law. A couple hours before I headed out of town, I learned that the order had been switched and The Pretenders were now going before out heroes The Hold Steady. There are worse eventualities, plus I had a couple days to recover, so soon after touching down in Baltimore, barside we reported.

Sonar isn't so bad of a space, kind of reminiscent of the old Tramps without the ill-placed poles. It was packed cheek to jowl with Baltimore's largest and they were drinking. It was decidedly older crowd, by and large, but I myopically atrributed it to The Hold Steady and their devoted professional audience. I've never met more drunken corporate lawyers at rock shows than at Hold Steady shows. We missed the All MIght Senators, the long-standing Baltimore Fishbone-y funk rockers who are a mainstay of Baltimore opening slots and posted up to see The Pretenders. Chrissie has a new band behind her with Jim Keltner on drums. They rock pretty hard and Ms. Hynde is one sexy fifty-something. I guess it may be on account of the new band, but there were only five songs that I really recognized. I'm not terribly familiar with late-period Pretenders, but I gather that most of the set was from their new Break Up The Concrete record. It sounded like decent enough rock music and the new handsome guitar guy has got chops, but I was there for the hits as much as anyone else was. We got Brass In The Pocket and Back In The Chain Gang as well as a romp through Kid on the encore, but I would have liked to have heard a little bit more of the hits. Chrissie is not known for giving too much of a shit about what other people think about her music and the fact that they are on an indie pretty much asserts the fact that our Ms. Hynde will not be losing any sleep over this asshole's opinion.

We were taking bets on how much of the crowd would be bailing after The Pretenders set. I was figuring maybe 25/30%, but didn't much care. One more beer and it was time to stake out some real estate. After the previous night's acoustical nightmare, I was hoping that we'd be back to full speed and the gents did not disappoint. The set featured most of Stay Positive but one of the great things about The Hold Steady is the fact that they have b-sides that are just as decent as their a-sides and the have no problems with playing them. Cheyenne Sunrise from the new record was the b-side du jour, as has been the norm of late. Judging by the response, Vagrant is going to ship a lot more of the limited digi-pak version. Nothing gold can stay, and so a drunken stage invasion from a Fell's Point Irregular derailed things a bit toward the end of the set, getting our boy Dusty roughed up a bit in the doing. While that was placted, I turned around and was shocked to find that a solid 80% of the crowd had left. Granted, it was after 1am, but I would have thought we would have more die-hards. Oh, well. It was still a great show and Dusty (HS super-roadie) was of the opinion that it was one of the best HS shows ever. Either way, it bodes well for the co-headlining tour with the Drive By Truckers next month. My head hurts already.

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