It’s quite a rare thing to go to a gig where you’re looking forward to seeing the support act as much as you are the headline band. It happened last year with Jesse Malin supporting Ryan Adams and maybe once before, when I bought a ticket to see Ray LaMontagne in Edinburgh for the sole reason that Josh Ritter was supporting the bearded crooner. Otherwise, the support act is usually background noise as you load up on Jack Daniels at the bar.
Last night was one of those rare occasions as Craig Finn (frontman of The Hold Steady) joined The Felice Brothers at the ABC in Glasgow – the largest venue the band have ever played, according to Ian Felice. Craig played a selection of songs from his current solo recordClear Heart, Full Eyeswith the audience (those who weren’t already aware of Finn) becoming more appreciative with every song,New Friend Jesusbeing particularly well received.
It’s difficult not to smile – sometimes even laugh – at Craig’s hand gestures and hip swaying during his performance. It may look camp but there is no denying that it adds to his set, to the overall narrative of his lyrics. It’s easy to see that Craig Finn as a strong passion and belief in his music and that made the opening set last night a real treat.
This wasn’t to be the last time we saw the Hold Steady frontman, however. He would later join The Felice Brothers on stage for a rousing performance of Frankie’s Gun, with Craig swinging his arms and his hips whilst swigging from a can of beer. It was undoubtedly the highlight of the night. Craig Finn on stage with The Felice Brothers. Wow.
The Felice Brothers themselves are a musically talented four-piece. Ian’s voice, as has been documented here before, is eerily reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s – even moreso in a live setting – and his brother James is an excellent accordionist. The bulk of their set came from their self-titled fifth album – easily their most accessible work and, happily for me, the only one of their records which I own.
Curiously for a St. Patrick’s Day set they opened with Murder By Mistletoe, a song displaying Ian’s excellent vocals but nonetheless Christmas-themed. Another curious event came during the performance of Take This Bread, when I witnessed the first – and almost certainly last – instance of a band chucking slices of bread into the audience. Naturally, this being a Glaswegian crowd, much of that bread ended up back on the stage.
Love Me Tenderly was given a pacier, rockier tempo and after a scattering of some songs unfamiliar to me the set reached a storming climax with the previously mentioned Frankie’s Gun and crowd favourite of the night,Whiskey In My Whiskey. There was still another song plus the two-song encore to come after those two songs, but I couldn’t help but feel that the night should have ended with Whiskey In My Whiskey. It was such a rousing, crowd-pleasing number that the remainder of the set fell kinda flat afterwards.
That minor complaint aside this was an immensely enjoyable night in the company of an excellent band in The Felice Brothers and the terrific Craig Finn. The Felice Brothers are one of the finest bands I’ve seen live and the audience loved every moment of their set.