“Welcome to Night Three,” Craig Finn said as The Hold Steady took the stage for the penultimate show of their “Massive Nights” run at Brooklyn Bowl. It was the second year in a row the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Minnesota band took up residency at the venue for a series of highly anticipated holiday performances. Part of what made each night singularly massive was the opening act, different for each show and largely unannounced until the day of. On Friday (12/1), The Whigs, a power trio from the highly regarded music hub of Athens, Georgia, had the honor. According to frontman Parker Gispert, The Whigs hadn’t played together live since May 2016, but there was no audible rust on their brand of hard-driving garage rock that went over well with The Hold Steady faithful.
“We’re going to have fun tonight,” Finn promised before the band kicked things off with “Banging Camp.” Edgy lyrics, dense with storytelling, literary allusions and religious references, are Finn’s stock in trade. Guitarists Tab Kubler and Steve Selvidge rarely interact on stage, but their sound is seamless, giving the music its edge. The band dug deep into Boys and Girls in America, their 2006 masterwork. “Party Pit,” “You Can Make Him Like You” and “Chips Ahoy” made early appearances, with “Stuck Between Stations,” “Massive Nights” and “South Town Girls” saved until the end of the set. With Galen Polivka on bass, Bobby Drake on drums and Franz Nicolay on keyboards, The Hold Steady are relentless, transitioning from song to song with only occasional breaks for Finn’s wry commentary. In between favorites such as “Sequestered in Memphis,” “The Sweet Part of the City,” “Stevie Nix” and “Your Little Hoodrat Friend,” the band worked in their two recently released songs, “Entitlement Crew” and “A Snake in the Shower.” Finn and the audience fed off each other, jumping, fist-pumping, clapping and singing throughout the night. The four-song encore — “Citrus” with acoustic guitars and Nicolay on accordion, followed by “Hornets! Hornets!,” “Constructive Summer” and “Killer Parties”— sent the crowd home sated but still trying to score tickets for the final night.
The final night, which was Saturday (12/2), had Frank Turner opening (and Frank joined them on stage for "Constructive Summer"). Night 1 was opened by Patterson Hood and Patterson joined the band for an AC/DC cover. Night 2 was opened by Cayetana and THS covered the Minutemen.
Pictures of night 3 are in the gallery above. Pictures of the setlists for night 3 and night 4, and a video, are below.