"Boys & Girls In America came out ten years ago, and I think it's safe to say it changed all of our lives," Craig Finn said last night (11/30) at The Hold Steady's first of four Brooklyn Bowl shows that have THS playing the beloved album in its entirety. It's clear that it changed the lives of plenty of the band's fans too -- last night was the craziest I've seen a crowd go for The Hold Steady in recent memory. From the opening notes of "Stuck Between Stations," the whole place jumping up and down and yelling all the words. By the "whoas" in "Chips Ahoy!," that was happening tenfold. It was a crowd of mostly thirty and fortysomethings on a Wednesday, but that didn't stop it from feeling like an all ages hardcore matinee show. (Okay that's not entirely true, but come on, I had to make the reference.)

The only time during the set that the energy waned at all was during the slower songs, but they found their own ways to bring joy. "First Night" (which Craig called the song that took them longest to write) was the perfect swaying singalong ballad to break up the louder songs. And the energy turned right back up to 11 for "Party Pit." If you weren't singing right away, then you were by "Gonna walk around and drink some more!" Possibly the album's best song is the one that came next, and all Craig had to do was yell "YOU. CAN. MAKE. HIM. LIKE. YOU." for the whole place to shriek.

The Hold Steady play a lot of these songs at their regular shows too, but the other thing pushing this one over the edge was that keyboardist Franz Nicolay was back in the fold. His contributions to B&GIA are crucial (it was nice to finally hear "Chips Ahoy!" live again with the organ solo), and he brings even more joy to the band's live show. He was decked out in a suit and a bowler hat (the rest of the band chose simpler attire), and he was all smiles all night, especially while belting out his backing vocals.

Like THS have done before, they brought out Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles to take over on lead vocals at one point. Patrick was in the house because...

Each night has a surprise opener, and as predicted, last night's was Titus, whose The Monitor features vocals from Craig Finn. ("Even if you didn't like what you heard tonight, you should go buy The Monitor, 'cause Craig Finn is on it!," Patrick yelled, probably kinda sarcastically.) They were fun as always, playing favorites as old as "Fear And Loathing In Mahwah, NJ" and as recent as "Dimed Out," and they ended the set with The Monitor opener "A More Perfect Union," which had Craig watching and singing along from Brooklyn Bowl's stairwell behind the stage. Titus also had an entirely different lineup than their last few tours. Former member Liam Betson was back on guitar, and they also had Ted Leo + the Pharmacists' Chris Wilson on drums, and bassist RJ Gordon (Baked, Shea Stadium).

Titus have more upcoming shows, including a VFW hall in Jersey on Friday (12/2) and a Brooklyn Night Bazaar show on New Year's Eve.

THS continue the Brooklyn Bowl run tonight (12/1), with the surprise opener on at 8:30. Like all of the shows, it's sold out but there will be limited tickets at doors. More info here.

UPDATE: The Hold Steady revealed that Laura Stevenson is the night 2 opener and advance tickets are back on sale.

Pictures of night 1 are in the gallery above. Here's the setlist:

Stuck Between Stations
Chips Ahoy
Hot Soft Light
Same Kooks
First Night
Party Pit
Massive Nights
Citrus
Chillout Tent (with Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus and Jessica Louise Dye of High Waisted)
Southtown Girls
Girls like Status
Constructive Summer
Rock Problems
Magazines
I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You
Yeah Sapphire
Knuckles
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
How A Resurrection Really Feels

ENCORE
Certain Songs
Stay Positive
The Ballad of the Midnight Hauler
Killer Parties

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photos by Patrick Tabb