Deer Tick and The Hold Steady kicked off their joint tour at the House of Blues Boston following some in studio collaborations and covers of each other’s favorite work. Deer Tick was first to take the stage to catcalls and cheers as frontman John McCauley gave a “Hey what’s up!” and charmingly introduced the set with a slight slur, “We’re really excited to be here with our friends The Hold Steady tonight. Let’s make some music and words and screaming.”
With three drumstick clicks, they dove right into the set opener, “The Curtain.” The sound clashed around the expansive venue for a few moments before finding its flow that would swell and ebb throughout the colorful set. In short sleeve button downs, khakis and flannels, the laid back Providence fivesome played a scope of their classics, new songs, collaborations and covers. Steady drums and a fluid keyboard intro to the nostalgic “The Dream’s in the Ditch” tapped into the band’s wide range as guitarist Ian O’Neil took lead vocals before an awesome sax solo by keyboard player Rob Crowell. McCauley took the mic back for a misplaced introduction: “Let’s party with a bit of a slow jam” showed a set list mix up before stepping into the sweet sad melody and whiskey drinking lyrics of “Baltimore Blues No.1.”
Thanking the audience, McCauley took the interim to salute Boston “kicking off the tour with The Hold Steady tonight and what better place? If you haven’t heard of us before…(crowd laughs) …we’re called the Deer Tick.” Next came the slow guitar pluck and slightly southern twang of “Mr. Sticks,” where McCauley’s nasal croon carried the backwoods melody into a rock ballad finish as the crowd went wild to a held out, pealing chord.
The lull between songs continued to feature charming antics of the tipsy McCauley, simultaneously tuning his guitar and entertaining the audience with jokes before jumping into finger plucking ode to the road, “20 Miles.” Surprise guest Vanessa Carlton joined her husband onstage for “In Our Time,” before live premiere of new song, just in time for festival season, “Shitty Music Festival,” singing ,“Well I’d be better off stoned,” an instant success among the crowd.
The next ballad, “for a lady,” kept the relaxed tempo and heartfelt raspy lyrics of “Hey Doll” set to powerful and melancholy keyboard melodies. Switching it up for the next song, McCauley playfully introduced a Jimmie Vaughan cover: “We’re gonna do an old time rock and roll song ’cause we’re pretty good at that. It’s called ‘Rocket in My Pocket’ AKA ‘I got a boner’.” The crowd erupted into motion for the exciting and face melting guitar chaos of the cover before fluidly transitioning into the angsty and dark refrain of “Pot of Gold.” The versatility of McCauley’s screeching raspy vocals and heavy, head slamming drums impressively took the crowd on a journey through rock history, building into more Nirvana-into-Kings–of-Leon-esque percussion clashing and dark vocals in “Thyme” and “The Rock.”
“Typical Boston, being a great crowd,” McCauley shouted before the final two songs of their set. The whole venue sang along to bittersweet bluegrass-y “Ashamed.” McCauley took a gulp of one of his mic-side tallboys and spewed a fountain of beer into the air before slamming into mosh-inciting finale, “Let’s All Go to the Bar.” Laughing and cheers-ing as cups and cans flew threw the air, one even hitting McCauley in the face, Deer Tick riled up the crowds with a final flourish, yelling, “Who’s thirsty?” before tossing cans into the crowd, whose night was only half over.
The Hold Steady ran onstage, shouting, “We’re gonna have a real good time together! Starting this the only way we know how…” The pumped up crowd delighted in the bass heavy “Positive Jam” as frontman Craig Finn theatrically rallied the fans with his famed gruffy Brooklyn vocals. The crowd went wild for sing along chorus to “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You.” Finn’s comically enunciated and rough vocals combined with clashes of four guitars screaming their unique, heartland rock sound that motivated the energy of the whole set.
Finn ran around the huge stage with pincher claws and danced around the featured guitar duo in “Constructive Summer” while fluttering fingers from the crowd reached towards the sweating demigods of their basement rock band dreams. The crowd clapped along to the distinguished plucks of the electric guitar from nineties anthem, “Hot Soft Light” and “Wait Awhile.” Speeding it up for “Rock Problems,” Finn was joined by the crowd, who sang along for every word. Slowing it down for “Lord, I’m Discouraged” had lighters out and masses swaying. Preaching positive rage with religious rebellion, Finn had the whole place clapping and singing along as he reached out to crazed fans in “You Can’t Make Him Like You.” The party flew on, the crowd poised on every riff and rock-rap, before an epic and sweaty six-song encore. Thrashing and screaming along, the audience left the epic rock sesh finishing out full circle with “Stay Positive,” with ears ringing and hearts full of positive rage.
These old Shoes
The Dreams’ in the Ditch
Baltimore Blues No.1
In Our Time (with Vanessa Carlton)
Shitty Music Festival
Rocket in My Pocket (Jimmie Vaughan cover)
Pot of Gold
Let’s All Go to the Bar
The Hold Steady
I Hope this Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You
Hot Soft Light
Lord, I’m Discouraged
You Can Make Him Like You
Stuck Between Stations
How a Resurrection Really Feels
The Sweet Party of the City
The Only Thing
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Sequestered in Memphis