At the very back of a record store in East London, behind the aisles of CDs and vinyl, a bespectacled and ordinary looking man gets on stage with a light-looking acoustic guitar. This rouses the ageing, slightly hipster crowd. The man on stage is Craig Finn, leading man for The Hold Steady. Tonight though, he’s playing a little more quietly. Just he on acoustic guitar and his friend ‘Ricky’ on pedal steel guitar playing songs from his first solo record, Clear Heart Full Eyes.
Those lucky enough to be at Rough Trade East can later get a limited edition vinyl of the new album with bonus track ‘Some Guns’ (of which we later get a live rendition). It’s a short set, packing in the best songs from him album. ‘Apollo Bay’, ‘Jackson’, ‘Western Pier’ and ‘New Friend Jesus’ all get an airing, the latter of which he comically describes as song about imaging being able to brag to friends about Jesus being your new, amazing friend. ‘Some Guns’ is the bonus song, fearless towards the knowledge that “They were just some guys that got some guns” – a tough but amusing song.
Throughout the set, Finn squeezes his eyes shut and tenses his jaw, imagining vividly the stories he’s telling to this hushed and dedicated crowd. His strong American accent cuts and seems alien which lends each song a special resonance. The palm-muted guitar and velvety pedal steel complement each other brilliantly. In fact, the songs come across better live than on the record itself. A good job then, since he’s coming back in March.
Apparently, Finn tells the crowd, he had 24 songs to submit for this album and the record company said only 14 were any good. It shows two things: that he still needs The Hold Steady, and also that he can produce more solo material of this quality.
Picture Credit: Murasaki-Claire