“This is the fourth year in a row we’ve done this,” Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn told the Brooklyn Bowl crowd on the first of their four-show Massive Nights run. “What’s different this year is we have a new album.”

The album, Thrashing Thru the Passion, was well represented on Wednesday night, but not at the expense of more familiar Hold Steady anthems. Making early appearances in the set were “Stuck Between Stations,” “Party Pit” and “Stevie Nix,” followed later in the evening by “Sequestered in Memphis,” “Chips Ahoy” and, of course, “Massive Nights.” The new music fit seamlessly into the mix, with “Denver Haircut,” “T-Shirt Tux” and “Entitlement Crew” sounding as if they’ve been part of the catalog for years.

Opening nights can sometimes be a little spotty as a band settles into its surroundings, but the energy on first nights often compensates for any lack of familiarity. The Hold Steady are always an energetic bunch, but Wednesday’s level was off the charts. Finn displayed his normal histrionics while guitarists Steve Selvidge and Tad Kubler, keyboardist Franz Nicolay and bassist Galen Polivka jumped and bounced as they lay down epic riffs. The packed house loved it, arms raised and singing along through a two-hour set that closed with “Southtown Girls.”

Returning for an encore, Finn went into detail about the myth that arose around the Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star” due to the fact that the Dead went for years without playing it at any of their lives shows. “Tonight we’re going to do a song we haven’t played in years,” Finn said, introducing “Criminal Fingers” for the first time since 2014. More familiar tunes followed — “Constructive Summer,” “Slapped Actress” and “Killer Parties” to close the show.

A shout-out to The Figgs for setting an appropriately energetic tone before The Hold Steady took the stage. Massive Nights continues with a different opener each night. Tonight’s show at 8 pm features Wussy. The Friday and Saturday shows start at 9 pm, with Lilith opening on Friday and Ezra Furman on Saturday. All are sold out, but there may be tickets available at the box office when doors open each night at 6 PM (the shows start at 8).

Pictures from Wednesday's Massive Nights kickoff are in the gallery above and The Hold Steady's setlist is below.

SETLIST: THE HOLD STEADY @ Brooklyn Bowl 12/4/2019
Positive Jam
Stuck Between Stations
Barfruit Blues
Entitlement Crew
Party Pit
Stevie Nix
Multitude of Casualties
Don't Let Me Explode
Sequestered in Memphis
Navy Sheets
T-Shirt Tux
The Ambassador
The Weekenders
Chips Ahoy!
Denver Haircut
Confusion in the Marketplace
Hurricane J
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Massive Nights
Southtown Girls

Criminal Fingers
Constructive Summer
Slapped Actress
Killer Parties


photos and review by Lou Montesano

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