Craig Finn is renowned for his storytelling just as much for his music. Known to write narratives about break-ups and down-and-out heroes, his show Monday night at the Larimer Lounge acted as more of a support group for people who wished they were a few years younger. The venue, dim and homely, was the perfect place for Finn to get intimate with his fans and share some his real life stories of Twitter, pimps and the edginess of Hawaii.
Finn, the front man of the Hold Steady, arrived in Denver on a tour for his first solo album, “Clear Heart Full Eyes.” Released on Jan. 24, the album showcases Finn’s masterful lyricism, but with more subtle guitars than the Hold Steady. Finn has been on tour for the last two weeks and Denver marked the end of its first leg –– a landmark that seemed to give him some extra enthusiasm. With spit covering his mouth, wearing his tech guy glasses, a button up and jeans, Finn gave the audience a story of their own to tell.
Playing the entirety of his new album, Finn took time between songs to chat with the audience, telling some personal anecdotes and background to the songs. At one point while on tour in Hawaii, Finn told the audience, he had beers with an old woman who then proceeded to offer him a couple prostitutes. The trip, he said, served as the basis for his song “Honolulu Blues,” an alternative country jam that Monday night included a roaring guitar solo. Finn’s stories between songs acted like conversations with the audience, who would respond to his questions and comments. At one point when he asked, “What’s east of here?” someone responded with “Kansas.”
Backed by the four-piece group, Some Guns, Finn jammed through songs smoothly, making it impossible to tell they have been touring together for only two weeks. They moved from twangy songs that dripped of the American heartland, to slow ballads, to bar rock more reminiscent of the Hold Steady. Finn even decided to get personal with the close-to-sold-out crowd by playing a few songs on his own, and “Western Pier,” accompanied by only a heartbreaking melody on the pedal steal.
The crowd seemed to represent the every day characters in Finn’s songs –– dressed in plaid, jeans and without a chip on their shoulder. They listened intently for the entire hour-and-a-half set, some singing along with the words to songs that were released less than a month ago. Laughing at the funny parts, nodding in agreeance to the sad-but-true parts, the audience seemed to hang on Finn’s every word. It was story time for adults with songs about moving in with roommates after a divorce, dates cheating at parties and smoking cigarettes. Part way through the set Finn stopped and said, “Writing songs, writing stories … art –– the whole thing is about trying to make a connection.” And in front of a captivated audience, that’s exactly what Finn did.
Matt Miller is a new contributor to Reverb.