While I was watching Titus Andronicus perform Tuesday, I wrote down "like the Pogues, if they were from Jersey and had a Go-Go playing rhythm guitar." Not sure if that does the band justice, but suffice to say, I was impressed.---
At first blush, the uninitiated might think they were getting into serious prog-rock territory, between Titus Andronicus' name, and song titles like "Upon Viewing Brueghel's Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" and "Richard II or Extraordinary Popular Dimensions and the Madness of Crowds (Responsible Hate Anthem)." Thankfully, that's not the case, although the New Jersey-based crew does deal in some epic rawk that stretches well beyond the five-minute mark on several tunes.
While that can try my patience in lesser hands, Titus Andronicus had no problem holding my attention at their Kilby Court show. Their blend of punk-inspired anthems, sprawling-yet-gritty ballads and monster guitar workouts were never less than entrancing. The fact that they also infuse their songs with plenty of pop hooks is a real bonus; they had the crowd clapping in unison and dancing when I arrived—certainly not a typical sight for a prog-rock show.
Songs like "Titus Andronicus Forever" from this year's excellent The Monitor album and "My Time Outside the Womb" from the band's debut, The Airing of Grievances, were both energetic blasts of punk fury, while the languid, moody "Four Score and Seven" showed these are no one-trick ponies. "The Battle of Hampton Roads" sprawled past the 10-minute mark, and "Albert Camus" was a winner as well.
Throughout, the band was good at working the crowd, despite the presence of one young woman clearly out of her head drunk, stoned or off her meds. Lead singer Patrick Stickles handled her annoying habit of yelling at him, climbing on stage and, at one point, smacking his butt mid-song, with good humor. He's also boasting one of the best beards in the biz, a nice visual alongside the strikingly tall left-handed bass player Ian Graetzer and diminutive guitarist and violinist Amy Klein, who brought boundless and infectious energy to every song with her constant movement, wide smile and willingness to hop over her monitors to rock out in the fans' faces.
Stickles laced his between-song patter with funny tales of horrible past Utah trips, including a Provo gig last year at someone's house, when everyone in attendance left to buy beer as soon as Titus Andronicus started to play. I'm guessing the band won't have that problem again, and that they'll leave Utah this time with much fonder memories thanks to the crowd that danced along throughout Wednesday's show.