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The Hold Steady rock Clyde Iron Works

The Hold Steady. Photo courtesy of

Where is the, like, fourth place on the Clyde Iron Works campus where one would expect to see The Hold Steady perform on a Sunday night. Hint: It’s after the parking lot, but just before an intimate acoustic set in the glow of the wood-fire grills.

True story. The band with Minnesota roots played Clyde’s mezzanine -- which meant using the venue’s two-tier, warehouse-style entertainment center as the hugest backstage in the history of back stages. At first glance this seemed tacky, like wrapping a king sized guest bed in a thread count too high to be registered by modern math, then asking the visitors to sleep on the futon decorated with a quilt made from all your old 5K race T-shirts. 

But first glances can be wrong, friends. The space was just the right size to accommodate about the 100-ish superfans, who crowded in close and spat Craig Finn’s lyrics right back at him. And Finn. Ah, Finn. The band’s front man was a street preacher, a performance artist, a lit pusher, a dramatic storyteller and seemingly a rabid fan of his fans. At times he’d clutch his head in his hands, then extend his arms toward the crowd – well, crowd-like gathering – and the sweat from his hair would spray and glisten like confetti in the lights.

This is all just to say that it was cozy and real, a bar show befitting of the bar band.

It was probably like seeing The Hold Steady play Pizza Luce when the ink was still wet on its first album – but with a deeper discography. Okay, sometimes an audience member had to make a choice: creep to the side of the stage to watch Finn pace and gesture and otherwise simulate road rage – softened with side smiles – or move to the back of the room, where there was a better balance between guitars and vocals. But that’s just rock ‘n’ roll, right, imperfections?

The Hold Steady touched on its 10 years of material. Finn played vocal tease before opening the show with “Hornets, Hornets” from “Separation Sunday.” He initiated a clap-along for “Sequestered in Memphis,” from “Stay Positive.” Later in the set they played “Spinners,” the first single from the band’s new album “Teeth Dreams.”

Finn talked about the truths of rock and roll. He dropped references to the Rolling Stones and the The Fresh Prince. Then he said “This is true” before seguing into “You Can Make Him Like You.”

During “Charlemagne in Sweatpants,” he was all raised eyebrows and hand gestures like star of the library’s story hour.

At one point Finn recommended a summer read: Paul Stanley of KISS’s memoir “Face the Music: A Life Exposed.” Finn called it “one of the best rock ‘n’ roll biographies I’ve read.”

The band closed with “Stay Positive,” then exited into the venue’s massive backstage area.

The Hold Steady played a four-song encore that included “Constructive Summer,” “Hot Soft Light” and “Chips Ahoy.” But first they played “Almost Everything,” which they billed as a road song. Finn sang “There are nights I get terrified/ I’m sure you get terrified too/ So hey won’t you give me a sign/ If I’m getting through to you.”

Spoiler alert: They were gotten through to.