The Hold Steady at Thalia Hall

by Zoe Huettl

22 Aug, 2019

PKEW PKEW PKEW, a Toronto punk band, started the night on Thursday at Thalia Hall. Their grungy, fast-paced set roared through funny songs like “65 Nickles,” “Before We Go Out Drinking,” and “The Polynesian.” Their sarcastic, joking point of view gave the garage-style jams a clearer focus, with “Glory Days” as the best example of their snarky, incisive lyrics. The pace of the set was impressive, but left the audience with little time to adjust. The tight pacing, coupled with the charging pop-punk tempo meant that important changes — like song switches — could be easily missed. But they kept their set clean and tight, which ensured a good performance.

The Hold Steady began their long weekend of Chicago shows (two of three to be played at Thalia Hall, one at Empty Bottle) with “Constructive Summer” off of their 2008 record. They didn’t shy away from their new album, Thrashing Thru the Passion released on August 16, but they honored their lengthy discography with plenty of older classics.

The Hold Steady kept true to the old-school, classic rock sound with their band setup, with Tad Kubler and Steve Selvidge switching off lead guitar and vocalist Craig Finn occasionally adding a third part. Kubler and Selvidge played with the dual leading part, even taking a harmonic duet on “Blackout Sam.” The extra musicians meant for added texture, and Franz Nickolay on keys made some of the band’s more popular songs, like “Hurricane J” and “Sequestered in Memphis” come alive. With so much guitar, Nickolay’s features were backgrounded, but his organ parts in “Blackout Sam” and “Hurricane J” were memorable and a dynamic part of the band’s classic rock sound.

Finn was another highlight of the night, embodying his poetic lyricism like a preacher. The hand gestures that accompanied the more silly lyrics of “Chips Ahoy!” and the gritty realism of “The Weekenders” were an interesting facet to his performance as front man, and made up for the awkwardness that comes with talk-singing. Overall the band played a fully-realized deeply classic set that highlighted their dynamic, honest discography.