Craig Finn – Edinburgh Usher Hall, February 6, 2019
The last time I saw Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn it was close enough to see the whites of his eyes. Hardly surprising, it was a living room gig in an Edinburgh tenement. At the time he was promoting his latest (third) solo album, We All Want The Same Things. Now two years later, he’s supporting Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon on solo dates, and has a new solo album, I Need A New War, out in April.
There’s no doubt that Craig Finn is a talented songwriter – but watching and listening to him armed with just an acoustic guitar (no mean feat in a venue the size of the Usher Hall, upgraded from the comparatively smaller Queen’s Hall), his skill as a raconteur cannot be underestimated. Sure, it’s irritating when people won’t shut up over the support act, but even more so when it’s someone this witty.
Introducing the Hold Steady’s song ‘Magazines’, he talks about how it was written after a girl dumped him on a date. Then twenty-four hours later – during which time he’d written the song – she realised she’d made a mistake and they’ve been together ever since, even though he wrote the song. There’s a preview of the new record’s ‘Magic Marker’ and more reflections about growing up and missing out on being a proper punk because he didn’t get to see Black Flag on ‘Punk Is Not A Fair Fight.’ There’s the melancholy of 9/11 revisited on ‘Newmyer’s Roof’ and a touching tribute to the late Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit with a cover of Frabbits’ ‘Heads Roll Off.’
As a reviewer, I was privileged to see this, but if I’d been a punter I would have been amply rewarded, too.