Live Reviews

Titus Andronicus shakes the rafters at the Marquis Theatre (review)

Image provided by Merge Records.
Image provided by Merge Records.

When Titus Andronicus exaggerates their music–which happens a few times in most every song–frontman Patrick Stickles has an uncanny way of reframing what they’ve just done, bringing the band back down to crowd level in a flash.

Case in point, the six-piece nearly shook The Marquis Theatre to the rafters last night with a confident-if-overindulgent blend of heaviness and pure volume. Too bad the venue was less than half-full to see the New Jersey-based band prove their punk rock worth and then some.

Stickles followed most songs with his unique banter, often breaking into goofy, improvised poems or bouts of self-deprecating admonishment. Early in the set, he used the third person to implore the audience to allow speaking over shouting. “The artist is about to get emotional. The artist is about to get melodramatic,” he said. “The artist is a little light-headed.”

The band then fell into “Stable Boy,” exemplifying a sound that’s all theirs, soaring somewhere between Springsteen and Rancid and well aware of the Clash’s reigning middle years. “Bands are always makin’ new records, and we’re one of those bands this year,” Stickles pointed out before introducing “No Future Part IV.” The huge, 5-minute ballad is from their latest record, “The Most Lamentable Tragedy,” of which they played a fair share.

But it was their past efforts that stood out. Tearing through “Four Score and Seven,” it became obvious why Titus holds the attention spans of young punk rock fans through six-plus minute songs: Stickles’ indefatigable charisma. He stood in front of wave after wave of distorted guitars, driving rhythm and volume and belying his slight frame. Beneath a thick moptop, his face covered by a shaggy black beard, he looked more like a hermit than a rockstar, belting out reams of lyrics in a voice that shifted from The Pogues’ Shane MacGowen into Rancid’s Tim Armstrong.

The fans that did show up loved it. They sweated, fist-pumped and screamed every word through highlights like “Genius” and “(I am) The Electric Man.” As the band got somewhat darker with “No Future Part Three,” their audience rose to the occasion, trying to match the energy onstage. They almost did–until Titus bled into an explosive cover of Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way.”