review by Lou Montesano

Craig Finn’s new album, We All Want the Same Things, advances his darkly positive view of the world at a time when many Americans wonder if we’ve reached the point where we no longer have anything in common with one another. The songs were written during last year’s endless Presidential campaign — in many ways, the campaign is still going on — that laid bare the divisions between urban and rural, educated and uneducated, native born and immigrant.

“I still believe we all want the same things,” Finn said at his album release show at New York’s City Winery on Tuesday night (4/4). “We just disagree as to how to go about getting them.”

Finn opened the set with “Be Honest,” the closing track on We All Want the Same Things. “We need to be more honest with each other,” he said at several points throughout the show. Finn has always been a storyteller who creates characters with unusual names and self-destructive tendencies. He likes to say his early songs were about partying too much, but now he focuses more on the hangover that follows. There are still plenty of cigarettes, six packs and drug deals going down in his songs, but youthful exuberance has given way to a melancholy numbness.

Finn grew up in Minnesota and maintains an empathy for the Middle Americans with whom many New Yorkers have no contact. Finn’s Midwesteners aren’t Springsteen’s working-class heroes, nor are they angry, displaced factory workers demanding that someone bring their jobs back from Mexico. The spoken-word “God in Chicago,” from which the phrase “we all want the same things” is taken, best captures the sadness that hangs over so many lives, yet there remains the possibility of love to heal the wounds. There are no soul mates in Finn’s depiction of love, just ordinary people spending enough time together to allow bonds to form. Eventually, if you’re lucky, something might take hold.

Finn’s writing is often the driving force behind his songs, but as with The Hold Steady, he knows how to surround himself with top-tier musicians. Joining him at City Winery on guitar was Josh Kaufman, a long-time collaborator who helped produce We All Want the Same Things. Fellow Brooklynites Jon Shaw on bass and mighty Joe Russo on drums continue to be major presences on the local scene. Sam Kassirer played keyboards and multi-instrumentalist Stuart Bogie added sax, horns and reeds.

In addition to the tracks from his new album, Finn included a few cuts from his previous solo albums, like 2015’s Faith in the Future, and he broke out the old Lifter Puller tune "Nassau Coliseum." Humble and gracious, he thanked his fans for coming out and left them with a few reminders from his song and album titles: “We all want the same things . . . be honest . . . stay positive.” Simple enough, but even that can be challenging in a world where basic facts are matters of contention.

Pictures of the City Winery show are in the gallery above. Setlist below.

The night before the City Winery show, Craig and that same backing band played "Preludes" and "God In Chicago" on Late Night With Seth Meyers. Watch:

Craig Finn @ City Winery - 4/5/17 Setlist (via)
Be Honest
Ninety Bucks
They Know Where I Live
Jester & June
Newmyer's Roof
Screenwriters School
Eventually I Made it to Sioux City
It Hits When It Hits
Rescue Blues
Nassau Coliseum (Lifter Puller song)
Trapper Avenue

Maggie I've Been Searching For Our Son
God In Chicago


words & photos by Lou Montesano

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