A career spanning set from New Jersey indie rockers makes for a relentless and thrilling experience in the Midlands
Though best known for their seminal 2010 album The Monitor, Titus Andronicus – led by the mercurial Patrick Stickles – have released a handful of excellent albums in the decade or so since, and have cultivated a fierce reputation as a superb live act. Whether they’re playing their early material, tracks from their Pogues via Bruce Springsteen years, or their newer Alice Cooper via Def Leppard material, you can guarantee they’ll play as though their lives depend on it.
However, a combination of traffic chaos in Birmingham, a midweek booking that happened to fall on a day when a significant proportion of the adult population are involved in romantic exploits – and a cost of living crisis – meant that only a handful of people made the show. Still, for those that made the effort, it was a relentless and thrilling experience (not that you’d know from their reaction to the songs).
So despite the clearly disappointing turnout, and the largely disinterested crowd, the band seemed completely unfazed – perhaps their punk roots helped prepare them for empty rooms – and blasted through a career-spanning set that ended with a trio of songs from their aforementioned magnum opus.
When they opened with the highlight from latest album The Will To Live – (I’m) Screwed – it was clear they meant business. It also meant that they unfortunately decided to drop My Mother Is Going To Kill Me, an excellent instrumental that had opened every other show on the tour.
After a couple of songs played at breakneck pace, Stickles half-jokingly said that they’d get through the rest of the new songs so they could reach the part of the set everyone was waiting for.
The rest of the new songs turned out to be two of the highlights from the new LP – Baby Crazy and Give Me Grief – and they rapidly followed those with a blistering duo from their 2015 epic The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Dimed Out and Fired Up).
Their Velvet Underground homage Tumult Around the World (which becomes more prescient with each passing year) then led into their customary show-closing trilogy of The Monitor songs – Four Score and Seven, A More Perfect Union and Titus Andronicus Forever.
It was a near perfect performance from the band, despite all of the things they had going against them. All of the songs were played with fire and passion and the band performed like they were playing to 29,000. Let’s hope the experience didn’t put them off coming back to the Second City next time around.