Titus Andronicus in Whelan’s on November 22nd 2015
Just after the release of ‘The Monitor’ – their second album that leaned on the American Civil War for its inspiration – Titus Andronicus came from New Jersey and pretty much tore up a wintry Whelan’s. That same night in 2010 was one that brought the first flakes of a heavy snowfall that caused havoc around the country – the two things are unrelated, but it made for a memorable night all the same; a blizzard inside and out.
The band furthered their conceptual undertakings with this year’s ‘The Most Lamentable Tragedy’, a ninety minute rock opera in five acts taking in mental health, organised religion, worlds both real and intangible; an exploration of the vagaries and opaque recesses of the human mind and what happens when it melts down. Ambition isn’t lacking in the TA camp, nor the will to offer up a Who-indebted platter of power and volume, and Patrick Stickles remains as enigmatic, edgy and arresting a frontman as ever.
With a preamble that basically amounts to an instruction not to be a dick – things have a tendency to get a wee bit rowdy at a Titus Andronicus show – the band begin a set that takes material from all four of their records, and the newest material has already been well-assimilated judging by the chorus of voices that sing along through the selection.
No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future and A More Perfect Union from ‘The Monitor’ have the ability to kick a crowd off like no other, with Stickles onstage conducting the gear changes with chord-ignited leaps, knees in the air. He’s conscious of the mayhem though, sticking to the punk axiom that we’re all in it together, and even though the bodies are slamming into one another, it’s never without that camaraderie that comes with…well, the communal love of a good band. And anyway, we’ve already been schooled – don’t be a dick.
The band are a different entity from the one that visited before – for one thing there’s no Amy Klein providing her kinetic energy on guitar to Stickles’ left, but instead the lead guitarist makes up for it by playing up to the crowd; leaning into the front row to spin out a solo, playing the guitar behind his head at the finale. This is an older, wiser, tauter Titus Andronicus – more mature in their antics and their compositions, mostly.
That punk spirit is still alive and kicking, only this time around it’s tempered by a more comprehensive setlist. The tempo changes ebb and flow, and the whole set breathes that bit more, with the band’s Springsteen-like soundscapes giving way to the more jagged cuts, and their own juiced-up take on Daniel Johnston’s I Had Lost My Mind summing everything up in one wonderfully raucous few minutes. There’s no encore – none of that adulation-whoring or fucking around to leave the stage and come back; the band play until it’s time to stop, and then they stop. The boys were back in town, a long overdue visit but a fine gig to make up for it…maybe don’t leave it so long next time, lads?