Concert Review: Craig Finn, February 8, PJ’s Lager House

The following is a guest post contributed by Jason:

Detroit – While there is an inherent voyeurism in attending any show, it is especially true when it involves a very popular rock and roller pulling out their acoustic guitar and playing a smaller than usual venue.  One wonders if years of playing larger venues with a full band  has skewed an artists’ ability to connect with their audience, or whether their craft has been sharpened through experience.   With this thought in mind, it was with high hopes that my companion and I biked down to P.J.’s Lager House on a cold night in Detroit to watch Craig Finn – singer for The Hold Steady – tour his recently released first solo album Clear Heart Full Eyes

Despite our tardiness and the full parking lot, we got in, and moments later with beers in hand navigated our way toward the stage through a sea of thick black glasses, baseball caps and snark just in time to watch Mount Moriah take the stage.  After a quick introduction they began with a soft country ballad that commanded all ears while also cooling out the Bro-Vibe that was infecting the room.  P/A problems kept the vocals low in the mix which obscured their musically skillful, yet lyrically driven songs. 

A full 45 minutes later Craig Finn and the newly christened Some Guns (Sum’ GunZ?) came onstage.  They went right into the first song on the album – ‘Apollo Bay’ – which had a moody, bluesey feel to it.  Having not heard the album at that point, I was a little sceptical, but was relieved by the follow up numbers.  The pace picked up, and included Thin Lizzy-esque guitar work, patented Craig Finn Hand-Jivin’, a crowd sing-a-long during ‘New Friend Jesus’ and some jokes about baseball.  All the while, the band seemed like they were restraining themselves from going all out.  Fair enough.  Otherwise it would have been just like a Hold Steady show.  That being said, the band was great, and maintained the mood driven, atmospheric sound I have since heard on the recording.

After about 45 minutes the band walked off the stage, allowing Mr. Finn the opportunity to perform some truly solo acoustic songs.  They returned for a couple of more to close out the night, at which point Mr. Finn went right over to the merch table to talk to fans and shake some hands. 

For a performance that lasted just over an hour, and debuting new material, it was never dull and the energy rarely waned before it was brought back up again.  Even though there was a pedal steel and an acoustic guitar, make no mistake:  this was a Rock Show.  When Craig Finn, all smiles and sweat says ‘It’s good to be back in a bar band again.’ you know he really means it.

Posted on by Paul in Concerts