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Titus Andronicus' rock opera roars at Triple Rock

Titus Andronicus Friday at Triple Rock

Titus Andronicus Friday at Triple Rock

As Patrick Stickles, lead singer and guitarist of Titus Andronicus, sang the first lines of set-opener “A Pot in Which to Piss,” it was clear that it would be a singalong night this past Friday.

Which makes sense. The indie-punk, New-York-via-New-Jersey band specializes in singalong moments: from the chorus of “Dimed Out” to the “You will always be a loser”-coda of “No Future Part III,” Titus Andronicus has mastered visceral chants that are both broad enough to be excited yet sincere enough to feel personal — even in the sold out Triple Rock. But the crowd singing wasn’t limited to the hooks; the audience screamed every lyric to every song. This is the type of fandom and devotion that Titus Andronicus evokes.

Indeed, the Cult of Stickles was in full swing tonight, and it’s easy to understand why so many people drank the Kool-Aid. Even disregarding Stickles’ poignant, intellectual lyrics and manic, emotional screaming, the Titus Andronicus frontman was energetic and charming throughout the show. From cracking jokes with the audience between songs to dancing through the Stones-esque “Fatal Flaw,” Stickles was commanding and endearing. For a guy with Rasputin’s beard and the eyes of a serial killer, Stickles is one of rock’s most engaging singers.

But I would be remiss to make the night sound like “the Patrick Stickles Show.” Now a six-piece — piano, bass, drums, three guitars and a hell-of-a-lot of yelling, if you’re wondering — Titus Andronicus sounded closer to the overwhelming wall of sound found on their studio albums than I’ve ever heard before.

There was a pleasant warmness is hearing keyboardist Elio DeLuca’s “Linus and Lucy”-style piano rolls during “A Pot in Which to Piss.” For six people on a small stage, the band still found openings to take command of the audience: lead guitarist Adam Reich joined Stickles at the front of the stage for Thin Lizzy-esque harmonized guitar solos during “No Future Part I” and “Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ,” and bassist Julian Veronesi bounded around the stage as he launched on monitors.

Although the band was touring in support of their new album The Most Lamentable Tragedy — a 29 song, three LP rock opera — the set was picked and arranged pretty evenly with songs spanning the band’s four-album discography. The audience responded to the set with enthusiasm, turning the packed floor into a de facto push pit.

Despites Stickles’ plea for the crowd to move vertically rather than on a horizontal plane, those in the middle of the floor pushed towards the stage with such extreme gusto that Stickles had to bring the monitors center stage as if he were constructing his own Fortress of Solitude with the blocks. (“Some people call these ‘monitors,’” Stickles said after scolding the audience. “But that word has another meaning for us.”)

The rowdy crowd was only further encouraged when Stickles brought up his interest in the history and legacy of certain Twin Cities bands, climaxing in a cover of the Replacements' signature song “Bastards of Young.” The band received some playful booing when they admitted they hadn’t prepared a Hüsker Dü cover, to which Stickles quipped, “Now we’ll play ‘Purple Rain.’”

Instead, they closed with “Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ” from their first album The Airing of Grievances. As the crowd sang along to the opening verse, screamed “Fuck you” with the band and pushed forward during guitar solos, it was a better ending to this intense Titus show than even our beloved “Purple Rain” could have been.

Critic’s bias: This is my seventh Titus show and third of the year, and there are very few bands that engage me as much or more than Titus Andronicus. If you’re napping on this group, I advise you not to make it an endless dream.

The crowd: A lot of young, white people and screaming bros.

Seen at the show: Two 50-year-olds furiously making out by the bathrooms during opener Baked.

Abusing this platform: I met guitarist Adam Reich’s aunt Penny on the subway in New York this summer. I hope someone in the Reich family has a Google Alert for Adam’s name so that I can give Penny this message: Hi, Aunt Penny! The boys sounded great tonight! Love from Minneapolis!

Setlist:

A Pot In Which To Piss

My Time Outside the Womb

Upon Viewing Bruegel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus"

Fatal Flaw

Please

Come On, Siobhán

Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus

In a Small Body [half of the song]

Stranded (On My Own)

No Future Part I

No Future Part II: The Day After No Future

No Future Part III: Escape From No Future

Lookalike

I Lost My Mind [Daniel Johnston cover]

Mr. E. Mann

Fired Up

Dimed Out

A More Perfect Union

Titus Andronicus Forever … And Ever

Bastards of Young [The Replacements cover]

Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ