Titus Andronicus burst onto the national stage in 2010 with their Civil War themed album, The Monitor. Now, touring the release of their fifth LP, A Productive Cough, Titus Andronicus are taking their bombastic and grandiose sound, stripping it down to a two-member “acoustic” tour.
The show begins with keyboardist, Alex Molini, playing the introduction to “To Old Friends and New.” Patrick Stickles emerges from the staircase adjacent to The Frequency’s stage in a grand and theatrical manner.
Much of Titus Andronicus’s show felt much larger than a two-member performance in a 175-person capacity venue would lead on. The lead single of A Productive Cough, “Number One (In New York)” filled the venue and much more as Stickles’ menacing stare shot through the audience as he, and audience members alike, chanted through the eight-minute song. Many members raised their beers high in a toast to Stickles which added to the communal feel of the set.
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Nothing quite encapsulated the temporary community formed within The Frequency like the performance of “Theme from ‘Cheers’.” The song about the camaraderie of a bar falls on the brutal final line of, “what the fuck was it for anyway,” Stickles shouted out. As “Theme from ‘Cheers’” came to a close, Stickles put his beat-up Les Paul Jr. down and picked up the microphone and performed “Where Everyone Knows Your Name,” the actual theme from “Cheers,” in passionate fashion.
Stickles’ performance was filled with passion as he powered through a catalog of songs upwards of six-minutes long without skipping a beat. It truly felt like a one-man show of songs that I expected needing to have at least six people to sound as big as they do on the record.
The penultimate song of the roughly 90-minute set was “Four Score and Seven” from The Monitor. The full-bodied track builds over the course of nearly nine-minutes with big harmonies and horns blasting, but the live rendition did not have the same resources as the studio version. Stickles and Molini attempted to recreate the boisterous energy and succeeded. Stickles’ chanting of “it’s still us against them” with the support of the audience shook the venue, in a collective fashion that resonated even more now than it did in 2010 when The Monitor released.
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Of course, “Four Score and Seven,” ends with “them” winning, and it’s tough not to feel that way today, but Stickles shows us that we can win. His solution is community. The community that his music creates and the embodiment of those connections being made at his shows felt just as — if not more — powerful than any of his records. That’s not a dig at his records, rather the contrary.
Stickles feels like a genuine figure who embodies both a larger than life rock star persona and that of the common Bruce Springsteen fan. On stage, his gaze and long beard are almost frightening — as he never even cracked a smile — yet off stage, he greeted fans, discussed his records and signed autographs.
These dualities filled the performance. It was an acoustic tour of punk songs with electric instruments. The audience felt like friends who were strangers. The show felt like a theatrical performance in a miniature venue. Yet, in these contradictions is where Titus Andronicus lives, and in an absurd world, they make sense.