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Concert Review: The Hold Steady at Union Transfer, Philadelphia, 12/30/’12

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Craig Finn performing with the Hold Steady in Philadelphia

The Hold Steady rolled into Philadelphia Saturday night for a rollicking, sold-out show that sprinkled tracks from all five of the band’s albums, in addition to a couple of new ones. Throughout the nearly two-hour show the group, one of the most high-energy live acts around showed they haven’t lost a step at all.

Touring without a new album- although Finn released a solo record earlier this year, and the band is reportedly working on a new release- frontman Craig Finn, guitarist Tad Kubler and the rest of the band kicked off the show with the spoken word intro of “Hornets, Hornets,” which most of the crowd recited along with him.

Other highlights included “Chips Ahoy!,” “The Swish,” “Stuck Between Stations,” and “Southtown Girls.” The set also included a couple of pretty strong new songs, including “Tangled Up” and “Rainbow.”

The tour is being conducted without a keyboardist; Franz Nicolay left the band nearly three years ago, although the group has toured with a replacement keyboard player in the past, including when I saw them two years ago. This necessitated the band skipping over solos on a couple of songs, but otherwise the transition was seamless. Steve Selvidge has joined the band as a third guitarist.

The crowd was eating out of Finn’s hand pretty much from beginning to end, especially when Finn implored the Philly crowd to “take care” of “my good friend Ben Revere.” Revere is an outfielder recently traded to Philadelphia from Finn’s beloved Minnesota Twins.

Sure, the group left off a few of its standards, most notably “Stevie Nix,” “Lord, I’m Discouraged” and “How a Resurrection Really Feels.” But it was still a first-rate, vintage Hold Steady show.

Swearin’, a punk-oriented indie rock band from Philly, was the opening act, playing a pretty strong set.

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