Craig Finn @ Coalition - Wednesday 28th March 2012
Words by James Kendall
For men of a certain age Craig Finn is a truth teller, a writer of stories and melodies that touch their hearts in a way that few manage. That’s because the Hold Steady front man – here reaching the end of a long solo tour on its second stop in Brighton – understands what it’s like when your dreams don’t quite work out like you thought they would. Perhaps that’s because success came a little later for Finn than most rock stars – he was in his mid-thirties before it took hold, The ‘Steady providing the success that six years of Lifter Puller couldn’t quite manage.
It certainly seems to have had a positive effect on him. Despite a turn out slimmer than his main band would expect, he’s keen that tonight be all the more special for it, pulling the crowd close to the stage, all the better for hearing his musical short stories. The world that his songs live in is so complete that before each one he explains either the story surrounding it or it’s real life inspiration – unafraid, for example, to explain how hard it is moving into a shared house after a divorce before diving into ‘Rented Room’. He’s funny, fascinating and self-deprecating and forces us to reassess our "perfect diner party guests" for the game that people often play. Everyone is in the palm of his hand and he's loving being here.
Musically it’s nothing we haven’t heard before, solid foot-stomping country rock that brings to mind Wilco’s ‘Summerteeth’ LP, but that’s no bad thing when the band is as good as this. Ricky Ray Jackson on the pedal steel guitar deserves a special mention as skilled, providing that instrument’s mournful whines as though he is picking up a standard guitar and knocking out joyful licks. Finn is quite a stage presence throughout - a world-class pointer who’s clearly also picked up some tips from America’s best preachers.
There’s time for a little breather as Finn, with little fuss, stops the show after an audience member is overcome with excitement and faints during the acoustic section, perhaps the time when the storytelling is at its best. But mainly this is a gentle, affecting night that those lucky enough to experience enjoyed as much as the man on stage.
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Date: Tuesday 10th April 2012