It’s easy to label the Hold Steady’s sound as Paul Westerberg channeling Bruce Springsteen, or Thin Lizzy raised in Minneapolis. But that’s not fair. They’re better than that and boast several key qualities that lift them out of the bar-band pack and into Best Band in America territory. Most prominently: frontman Craig Finn’s lyrics. He spins lurid tales of “boys and girls in America” (to borrow one of the Hold Steady’s album titles), of townies and suburban kids stumbling through bouts of drunkenness, debauchery and early adulthood. Part highly caffeinated lit major, part sofa-surfing slacker, Finn has a gift for writing about twentysomethings filtered through a keen-eyed perspective of someone in his late 30s. He also loves filling his tunes with vivid literary, musical and geographical details (at least two tunes reference the Cleveland area). As strong as his writing is, Finn’s songs wouldn’t be as potent if he didn’t have the rest of the band playing behind him. Guitarist Tad Kubler rips off classic-rock riffs, while Franz Nicolay fills in keyboard flourishes and the rhythm team (Bobby Drake and Galen Polivka) bash out beats that turn songs into beer-sloshing anthems. “It feels good to be in a bar band,” Finn admits on the group’s new live album A Positive Rage. They perform with such cheery, beer-y zeal, it reminds you what passionate and fun rock ’n’ roll is all about. Right On Dynamite opens the show at 8 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $17. — Michael Berick
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