The Hold Steady touring with Art Brut? Pretty much as soon as I heard about this show, I bought my ticket. I’d never seen Art Brut before, but I’d heard many, many good things; and as far as The Hold Steady goes, well, we already know how I feel about their live shows.
Seeing as how The Hold Steady’s last show built up my trust in their ability to pick great opening bands (Illinois, Blitzen Trapper), I made sure to get to Canes in time to see LA act The Blood Arm. How telling is it that when we walked inside the venue, their lead singer was singing to the crowd from the middle of the dance floor? That was only the beginning of it. This guy was all over the stage, walking on the speakers set up in front of the stage, and back out onto the dance floor – even hauling himself up to sing while standing on the railings, or the bass drum.
I’m a sucker for a band with a charismatic lead singer, although it makes it even better when the other band members get into the act as well. And all three acts that evening did not disappoint on that level (or on any level, to be honest). The Blood Arm’s dancey keyboard-tinged indie pop/rock didn’t hurt either.
Art Brut was up next, and they absolutely blew me away. Eddie Argos manages to be this totally charismatic frontman while still retaining an unassuming British personality. You can easily infer this from Art Brut’s recorded material (“We Formed A Band”), but it’s not until you see him shuffle onstage in a fatherly cardigan, with socks but no shoes on his feet, that you really experience the full effect.
Art Brut, shot by Natalie Kardos
Their entire live show is about celebrating the fact that they did indeed form a band, and that playing onstage in front of people is what they get to do for a living. I say ‘get to do,’ instead of ‘have to do,’ because unlike other jaded rockstars, they still obviously derive pleasure from it all. And not only that, but they encourage others to go out and do the same. At one point during their set, Eddie was standing on the speakers in front of the stage, essentially ‘blessing’ everyone in reach by putting his hand on their head, and then proclaiming that ‘everyone of you needs to go out and start a band.’ I’m happy to report that I was one of those people he blessed, although my prospects of starting a band are pretty low at this point…
Art Brut ripped through their set and were thoroughly entertaining to watch. Not content to let Eddie steal all of the spotlight, both guitarists (one who looked like a typical hipster rockstar, while the other looked like a typical 80’s hipster rockstar) were shredding all over the stage. The would even get into little ‘fights’ during the songs, parading up to each other and alternately slapping at each other, playing chicken to see who would back away first, or jabbing their guitars at each other. The drummer was watching it all and cracking up the whole time, all while playing drums standing up.
Pretty much all of Art Brut’s songs are made to translate into a live show, so any combination of them would make a stellar setlist. As it was, they played a nice mix off of both of their albums. The only major song lacking was “Formed a Band,” but even so, the chorus appeared briefly during “Good Weekend.” During “Moving to L.A.,” around the point where the lyrics ‘When I get off the plane/The first thing I’m gonna do is/Strip naked to the waist” appear, Eddie actually unbuttoned the shirt he had been wearing underneath his cardigan to reveal his very British pale chest and beginnings of a gut. This is something that only a very confident, and very charismatic, person could do onstage and still leave the ladies loving him. And believe me, they still did. He was also cracking jokes the whole time about how he felt like he was “playing in the cafe from Saved By the Bell,” a comparison I never thought of, but which is a very fitting description of Canes. He even went so far as to introduce the taller guitarist as Screech, and make a reference to Mr. Belding before launching into “Nag Nag Nag Nag.” Quite the showman, he was.