09 September 2018
It’s difficult to take your eyes of Patrick Stickles. The Titus Andronicus frontman is as captivating as he is unpredictable, exuding a raw intensity over an hour and a half in Whelan’s.
Tonight, he makes his entrance onstage – or rather off it – in theatrical fashion. Shortly after a recording of a glowing endorsement of Stickles’ songwriting prowess plays over the speakers, Stickles emerges through the venue’s side door. He dances through the gathered crowd as he serenades audience members with recent single ‘Number One (In New York)’, all rasping howls over an insistent, swaying piano riff.
It’s a near 10-minute opus that is indicative of Stickles’ 10-year output as the band’s chief songwriter and sole driving force. Over the course of tonight’s 90-minute set he and on-off Titus member, guitarist Liam Betson – the only band cohort to join him on this tour – will manage to fit in just 10 songs. They will probably down just as many pints of Guinness over that time, each delivered on-stage by fans as generous as they are patient.
Those fans will know that the length of Titus Andronicus’s material isn’t the only aspect of their music that is uncompromising. Brimming with emotionally raw punk rock, the New Jersey outfit are a band that draw either fevered devotion or wilful indifference. Although tonight the explosive New Jersey outfit are stripped back to their core, they’re not quite as ‘acoustic’ as advertised. This is more of a solo, electric effort, Stickles joined for about half of the set by Betson, who rejoined the band for the fourth time in 2016.
While the majority of the set is drawn from this year’s patchy A Productive Cough, there are nods to all four of the band’s albums to date with 2009’s Albert Camus a particularly intoxicating highlight.
Throughout Stickles sings like a band possessed. While there’s no disguising the fact that he’s progressively drunk by the show’s end, there’s a powerful authenticity to his performance. Impossible to fake, this is no imitation of feelings past but rather blisteringly still felt.
It’s these raw and ferociously intense moments that power songs such as Dimed Out and To Old Friends And New. There’s no mistaking his truth. Slightly shy and reserved off stage, Stickles wears his emotional state openly on it. It’s this that keeps us coming back to Titus Andronicus.
© Steve Cummins