Almost a year ago, Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn put out a moody solo album that embraced a tinge of its dusty, cowboy origins in Austin, but otherwise fit nicely into his larger canon of pharma-spiritual pleas to the wayward. But the corresponding show at MilkBoy Philly tested patience with awkward caesuras and extended séance breakdowns. At some point we in the audience started to feel like enablers of Finn’s own wayward musical choices, though seeing him rock a small room again was no small thrill. Backed by the rest of the Hold Steady, Finn returns to Philly to play the much larger Union Transfer, and whatever we’ll lose in intimacy we’ll gain in overall rock glory. The band is road-testing some new songs on this tour, and advance peeks — on YouTube, with all the corresponding crappy sound and shaky iPhone cinematography — are encouraging. In particular, “Teeth Dream” (or “Teeth Dreams,” not sure) sounds like the kind of punchdrunk Springsteen stuff that made this band a force.
Sat., Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m., $20-$22, with Swearin’, Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., 215-232-2100, utphilly.com.