Walking into The Crescent on Monday night, I was nervous. I’d been busy with exams and essays for so long that it’d been awhile since I’d had a chance to go to an intimate gig (Big Narstie at Fibbers only just missed out on this categorisation). Every now and again, I start to think that I’ve grown out of listening to guitar music in my own neurotic way, and that it would never have me hitting the same highs it did back when I was an obsessive teenager. It was during my (quite recent, let’s be honest) youth, when rock music was my everything, that I became acquainted with Titus Andronicus through their breakout album The Monitor. So as I sauntered into the Crescent, I braced myself for a bit of a trip down memory lane – but what I got was so much more than a shot of nostalgia.
We were greeted by music from the first support act, Bull. Whilst they were by no means the evening’s highlight (nothing could supplant the epic set that was to come later), they did admirably: really lifting what at that point was, if I’m being generous, a half full room with their tightknit tunes. Up next was …And the Hangnails, a duo whose music presented them as anything but due to the sheer volume of sound they lobbed at the audience. They truly were something to behold (in a good way, I swear).
Finally, it was time. But at first, it wasn’t Titus Andronicus in their full glory who appeared on stage – just frontman Patrick Stickles. He opened with a little speech for the audience, in which his tone was incredibly difficult to pin down. He was inviting and wanted everyone to have a good time for sure, but when he started talking about “safe spaces”, it was difficult to tell whether he was being genuine or not. Maybe I just mistook his East Coast American drawl for permanent sarcasm, and I really hope it was just a mistake on my part, because if so it was incredibly bold thing to do. It’s one thing to open a show alone when you’re in front of thousands of people, but if there’s less than a hundred, it’s even braver. It certainly settled the audience and prepared them for a special night.
Once he was done talking, Stickles went into a rendition of ‘To Old Friends and New’ that drew the audience closer. Afterwards the rest of the band joined him on stage, and they never looked back, roaring through their entire set with incredible energy. Songs seamlessly transitioned into one another; I think the band only came up for air 3 times throughout the entire show. As for Stickles’ plea for a safe space, the show had possibly the smallest mosh pit I’ve ever seen – which was endearing, in its own way. One eager fan even went for what I’ll tentatively call a stage dive, but was more of a stage hop.
The night’s highlight came in the form of ‘No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future’. When it came to the hook of “You will always be a loser”, Stickles initially completely changed the line’s melody, leaving me in awe. I thought he was doing the old Bob Dylan trick of desperately making sure the crowd couldn’t sing along to versions of songs they knew. Stickles, however, had other plans, building anticipation for a cathartic release when he switched back to the original version. It was truly something special to behold.
Other highlights included ‘The Battle of Hampton Roads’ and then closer ‘A More Perfect Union’. It wasn’t just tunes from The Monitor that I enjoyed, however (I guess I just know them best); the band played music from their entire discography, and kept the audience engaged throughout the entire night. The whole show was fantastic, and I left with my faith in guitar music thoroughly restored.By Harry Rosehill