Forgive me if this review sounds biased. It’s hard to be objective when you shake hands with the performer and get his autograph before the show. With that being said, Craig Finn’s show at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington DC reminded us what rock and roll is all about: love, loss, celebration, and having a good f!#&$^%* time.
Meeting Craig Finn prior to the show was on the “things not likely to happen tonight list” somewhere between getting the cute bartender’s phone number and being invited on stage to sing “Stuck Between Stations”. I never exactly dreamed that I would meet him, but it happened the way it should. At a dive bar, with a good friend, and a PBR tall boy in front of me. And then he came in to the room wearing his thick rimmed glasses, looking like just like any other patron. I started shaking. The rock star that sang the songs that got me through college was sitting ten feet away from me.
image via observer.com
I worked up the courage to go talk to Craig after my buddy said, “It’s just like asking someone out on a date.” I had done that before (although, not in a while). I almost called him Mr. Finn. That would have made me feel like I was 16 again. I never wanted to be “that guy” who disturbs celebrities for pictures when they are doing normal things. Though it’s not every day that you get to tell someone you respect how much you appreciate the work they do. Other than my Minnesota Twins hat, he could tell I was from Minnesota due to the number of apologies I gave to him and his two friends for disturbing their conversation. Luckily, they were all cool with it. I shook Craig’s hand, told him how much I enjoyed his music, got his autograph, and went back to my seat with a radiant grin stretching across my face. I would have been completely happy if my night had ended right there.
To talk about the actual music, Craig mostly played stuff from his solo album. Even though his album Open Heart, Clear Eyes had a much different sound than his regular band, the Hold Steady, I enjoyed it for its lyrical complexity and deep themes. It was clear that even though he had a pretty decent backing band (Some Guns), Craig made the show. He provided anecdotes behind just about every song and sang in his twitchy trademark style. The dedicated crowd ate it all up.
I believe that rock and roll is a feeling, not a commodity. Earlier in the day, I was driving back from a work training with a few of my coworkers. The radio was playing Katy Perry’s latest single. I remarked that the record company was milking every cent out of that album. Not to knock Ms Perry’s talent, but her songs could be sung by anyone. During the show, Craig spoke about every experience or event that led him to write each of his songs. My personal favorite was his song “Balcony” which was about going to a show with a girl, forgetting your cigarettes, heading across the street to get more, and coming back to find that she’s making out with some other dude. I haven’t experienced that specifically, but you could tell it wasn’t some generic-poppy-fluff song that was written for Top 40 radio. He also talked about what his mom though of his album. How many rock stars do you see that still talk to their mom?
I told my buddy that someone has found their calling when they thank you for letting them doing their job. Craig thanked the audience between every song. He was stoked to be performing and was so happy that we joined him. I’ve felt great after concerts, but Craig Finn is the only performer that has made me feel joyous afterwords.
I texted a bunch of my friends that I met Craig Finn. A few of them messaged me back during the concert. I whipped out the phone to type a reply. Then I stopped myself. Did I really want to be texting during this amazing show? Rock and Roll is a communal experience and Craig Finn wants to make sure that we are all their to enjoy it. I put it away and took in the music.
After the show, while waiting for my metro train, I took out my autographed ticket stub to see what he wrote. It said “Stay Positive -Craig Finn”. It’s hard not to after a night like that.
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Main Image via stereogum.com