Concert Reviews

Titus Andronicus Turned a Two-Man Show Into a One-Man Theatrical Performance

Titus Andronicus went "acoustic."
Titus Andronicus went "acoustic." Carley Elsey
It was strange to see people standing still during a Titus Andronicus show.

Even lead singer Patrick Stickles implored the audience.

“If I was at a show such as this, I would definitely be taking a seat at the table,” he said pointing to the dozen or so tables the Ridglea Room had set out for the show Friday night.

The night began with Rick McGuire, a member of the indie-rock band Pile and the warm-up act for Titus Andronicus’ “acoustic” show, stripping away the band’s normal four-man lineup to play solo.

McGuire’s explosive voice carried the audience through loud-quiet-loud songs that bled emotion through his gorgeous melodies and hard-driving choruses. At times, the passion of his voice was haunting in the toned-down performance, with people nodding their heads and softly swaying their bodies.

Alex Molini, pianist for Titus Andronicus, joined McGuire onstage for a few songs before McGuire closed the set.

By the end of the set, the crowd's polite claps had turned into a thunderous roar.

By the time the duo Titus Andronicus took the stage, the audience was prepared for the complexity of folk-punk, the overarching style for the evening. Folk-punk embraces the best elements of both genres. This is punk that hits you softly with its musical approach while it goes for the jugular with its lyrics and vocals.

Titus Andronicus’ 90-minute set started softly with an instrumental reprise of the band’s first single from its new album, A Productive Cough. It played “Number One (In New York),” on piano, and it flowed flawlessly into the band’s ballad “To Old Friends and New” from The Monitor.

It was heartening to see the chemistry between Stickles and Molini on the band’s 31st performance on the tour and its first-ever performance in Fort Worth. The two exchanged head bobs throughout the show, letting their music dance with the motion of their bodies.

To call the show acoustic is a bit of a misnomer. Although the piano and guitar were both electric — powered by a wall of amplifiers — as Stickles told the crowd, “You’re not in very much danger.” The words came through flawlessly as Stickles’ twisted crooning mixed with his signature yowling.

At times, the show went a cappella as Stickles dropped his guitar to take up the microphone in both hands and left Molini staring silently.

Fans heard songs the band hasn't played in a while, including “Albert Camus” from The Airing of Grievances and the anthemic ode to Saturday nights wasted in a friend’s basement, “Theme From Cheers” — a song that became a bit too much of a “bro-song” to warrant its place in set listse.

As “Theme From Cheers” closed, Stickles lead the audience through the actual theme from Cheers, Gary Portnoy’s “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” whereafter the singer took his cordless microphone through the crowd to take a seat at the bar in the back of the Ridglea Room.

The bartender served Stickles a shot or two of whiskey as he sang crying-in-your-beer renditions of Hope Foye’s “Lilac Wine” and Tom Waits’ “Better Off Without a Wife” from the top of the bar before concluding, “You know, it’s not all that sad being me,” and returning to the stage.

The night closed with, “Stable Boy,” a song that embodies the band’s desperate grasp at life when the will to carry on falls short and a slowed-down version of one of its most fast-paced songs, “Dimed Out,” about the desire to live life to its fullest.

As fans left the show, one concertgoer remarked, “I had no idea that the show was going to be like this. I didn’t expect it, but man, did I love it!”
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David Fletcher writes about music, arts and culture for the Dallas Observer. You can usually find him at a show in Deep Ellum whether he's writing about it or not. A punk scholar and local music enthusiast, David focuses his attention on the artists screaming in the margins of Dallas' music scene.
Contact: David Fletcher