Last summer’s announcement that Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn was releasing his first solo album left me with a few questions. First and foremost, why?
Was the Hold Steady not giving him ample breathing room? Although the Brooklyn-born band are energetic and Springsteen-like, Finn’s lyrics, reflecting mad tales of drug-crazed kids, redemption, and Rock & Roll problems, seem deeply personal, if not biographical. So what’s the point?
Finn answers this on Clear Heart Full Eyes.
Craig Finn solo touches on a lot of the same themes as his bar-band alter ego, including his strange blend of Catholicism that the band brought to the forefront in their mangnum opus Separation Sunday.
However, while the 2005 album explores the concept through a cast of characters that seem to be pulled from a Russian novel or heavy beat book, Finn appears to drop the stand-ins on Clear Heart Full Eyes, and in songs like “New Friend Jesus” and “Honolulu Blues,” delivers a more vulnerable, honest take on his faith than any Hold Steady song.
“We’re awake and we’re aware, that we’re confused and cold and scared and the cross reminds us that He died for me and you,” Finn sings on the latter, describing the comfort he finds in religion.
Musically, the album shares this stripped-down, more forward approach. It’s a lot less bombastic than Hold Steady numbers, instead putting the emphasis solely on what Finn’s trying to say via his trademark talk-sing.
For a project that signals a toned-down direction, Finn couldn’t have picked a better venue in DC than the Rock & Roll Hotel. Whenever the Hold Steady comes to town, they sell out the 9:30 Club and the night has the weird feeling of seeing rock legends like Kiss or Springstreen. However, while Finn will be playing to a sold-out crowd on Sunday, it’s a much more intimate setting than the 9:30 or even the Black Cat.
Marecellus Hall, an illustrator who previously sang for the band White Hassle, opens the show.