The Hold Steady + The Mark Inside + Mr Bones and the Dreamers @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – 15th December 2008


I arrived very early at the Wulfrun Hall so it was a nice surprise to find there was an extra support band playing – local band Mr Bones and the Dreamers. I hadn’t encountered them before but certainly plan to again. Despite being a young, and relatively new band, they played an impressively tight set – and with seven band members that’s no mean feat. The stand-out song of the evening, ‘Lend Me A Looking Glass’, will be featured on their new EP, planned for early next year. Keeping an eye open for them is highly recommended.

The billed support band, Canada’s The Mark Inside, played another razor-sharp set – although it felt like they took a couple of songs to warm up and start enjoying things. Once they’d got started, though, there was some serious noise coming the crowd’s way, with frontman Chris LeVoir’s voice going from powerful to damn near knock-you-down rawness. I have to admit that at the start of their set I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it as much as I did; the relative quietness of the crowd to begin with would have surely put off a lesser band, but The Mark Inside drove out any doubts with a strong, sure sound. For me the highlight of the set was ‘Shots From A Broken Bottle’, with beautiful layered rhythms and surging energy from Chris’s voice. It’s one of the tracks on their forthcoming new release, Nothing To Admit, and if that’s anything to be going on it promises much. They certainly deserve to be playing to some bigger audiences over here, and soon – and hopefully with their new CD scheduled for release in early 2009 that shouldn’t be long in coming around.


From tonight’s headliners, The Hold Steady, I had hoped for a bit of a revelation – appropriate enough, given the undercurrents of religion and salvation running through their songs. The tour, promoting their fourth CD, Stay Positive, had been rescheduled from October following Tad Kubler’s bout of pancreatitis, and it was worth the wait. For fans, the setlist was a well-judged mix of new and old material, with crowd pleasers ‘Chips Ahoy!’, ‘Stuck Between Stations’, ‘Your Little Hoodrat Friend’, and ‘Chillout Tent’ all getting an airing. As for the band – well, enthusiastic doesn’t really cover it. The Hold Steady play the kind of music that demands to be played with quite a definite sense of purpose, and that was certainly present tonight.


Standout tracks from the new CD included opener ‘Constructive Summer’, all energy and excitement and positive sentiment, and the catchy ‘Sequestered in Memphis’. ‘Lord, I’m Disheartened’ – with its beautiful guitar and piano parts – was as gorgeous as ever, with Finn’s delivery of the final, heartbroken lyrics. The final two songs of the evening were perfect – ‘Stay Positive’, with its infectious, upbeat refrain and ‘Slapped Actress’, with its powerful vocal harmonies, ended the set on a high. Listening back to the new CD today I definitely like it better for having seen them play it, so I guess that’s something positive indeed.


So – was it a revelation? Was there salvation? Well…kind of. They were great. The songs were great. I really really mean that – as someone who has to reign in fangirly glee, it was all very exciting, but on another level the atmosphere was very slightly off. Perhaps it was the contrast between the stubbornly quiet crowd and the extremely enthusiastic band; who knows? The Wulfrun Hall is a relatively small venue, which sometimes works so well in a band’s favour – and particularly for a band like the Hold Steady, where Craig Finn’s style of delivery is so intimate and intense, I had expected the atmosphere to be more electric somehow. It had started to get there by the end, but I had to wonder if the bands were more excited about playing than the crowd were about watching last night, which is kind of a shame — there is a lot to be excited about here. Anyway the main point is, if you can go and see them, you should. The Hold Steady are something different and interesting, and the storytelling in their songs is something you won’t get tired of anytime soon.


Review – Gill Duckett
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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2 thoughts on “The Hold Steady + The Mark Inside + Mr Bones and the Dreamers @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – 15th December 2008

  1. I guess you must have been further back in the audience than I was – from 6 people back I thought the audience reaction was immense. But maybe as you went further back this was less so.

    However, I agree, that the Hold Steady are one of the most exiting and energetic (well, Craig anyway) bands I have ever seen.

  2. I was near the front, but off to the side – it just felt a little bit quiet! Maybe I was expecting too much. They were great though. I particularly appreciated FN’s dancing 🙂

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