It’s raining today in San Francisco, and it’s beautiful. The sky is grey, it’s a bit cool with a light breeze, and I slept until noon. Last night I saw Titus Andronicus at the Chapel in San Francisco and it was one hell of a show. Titus are a truly exciting band to see live. While their albums, including the recently released double concept album The Most Lamentable Tragedy are truly great pieces of recorded music, it would be almost impossible for them to convey how truly intense this band is in performance.
Having seen them twice before, I knew about this intensity, but what truly impressed me with last night’s show was just how tight they have become as a band; how they masterfully blended songs into medleys, nailed the often complicated vocal parts, perfectly timed all returns from noisy or jammy sessions back to more structured songs, and just generally managed to play what was a fairly complicated set with the same ferocious, seemingly reckless intensity of a band playing a far less layered and textured set list.
The set began with frontman Patrick Stickles telling the crowd how Titus had first played in San Francisco at the Hemlock back in 2007 and reaching San Francisco after a strange trip through the rest of the country as an unknown band was like a wonderful Oasis, and that San Francisco needs to remain a place that is welcoming to creative and interesting people, and should not become a ‘bro city.’ He recommended everyone in the crowd refrain from dancing like assholes trying to inflict their will upon others, which is a typical ‘bro’ thing to do. I could not agree more.
The set pulled heavily from the most recent album, with a few songs from the previous albums thrown in, though admittedly light on tracks from The Monitor, which Stickles even joked about at one point in the set when, before launching into “In A Big City” from Local Business, he hinted that he knew the crowd was there to hear songs from their favorite album; Stickles famously defended Local Business on Twitter when fans were saying it was weak compared to its widely-regarded-as-a-masterpiece predecessor. The thing is, though, that Stickles was right.
Toward the end of the set, and after the entirety of the written setlist had come to pass, the band ripped into the song “Titus Andronicus,” their first single. Stickles thanked Joe Dixon, the guy who founded the label it was on, Shake Appeal, who was at the show, and played the b-side of that single, “Fear And Loathing in Mahwah, NJ.” Soon after Stickles promised the crowd they wouldn’t end on such a selfish note, and as a tribute to “the great music of San Francisco” they started playing a cover of “The Joker” by The Steve Miller Band, which somehow become a particularly heavy version of “The Sweater Song” by Weezer to end the show.
Stickles was the last to leave the stage. You could tell if he could he’d have played at least another 30 minutes. Throughout the set there wasn’t a moment that passed in which it seemed like he had anything less than a relentless belief in the virtue of what he was doing; that the music, and his message were essentially good.