Saturday, 1 September 2018

Titus Andronicus

30th August 2018

The Blue Arrow Club, Glasgow

An “Acoustic Tour” this jaunt across the pond by New York-based rockers Titus Andronicus was advertised.  But, unless the meaning of the word “acoustic” has changed of late – in my day it referred to non-electrified instruments – this evening was anything but.  Indeed, given the decibels produced, I would aver the owner of the intimate Blue Arrow Jazz Club on Sauchiehall Street would be finding themselves landed with a larger than usual leccy bill next month as a consequence if this gig.

Also, strictly speaking, it was not even Titus Andronicus we got here.  Rather a (mostly) solo performance by front-man and songwriter Patrick Stickles (what a great name!).  Although he was joined for a few tunes by band-mate Liam Betson.

But before all this we were royally spoiled by enjoying not one but two support acts: a pair of “Glesgae Jakies” - their words, not mine – Andy McBride and Mike Hargan.  They were touring buddies we learned, although did not (at least not this evening) perform together.  Both were cut from the same cloth – left-leaning, proud working-class, punk-rock troubadours.  Each sported impressive arm tattoos, and introduced their songs with an endearing line in fruity banter:  “This wan's fer two cunts” was one memorable intro.

Andy McBride

Mike Hargan

What did mark the duo apart, to my ears anyway, was their singing voices.  McBride made no concessions to his roots, performing in a a broad Scots' brogue which reminded me at times of Hamish Imlach, with Hargan effecting a more Transatlantic twang.  This may have been, in part, a consequence of the latter having toured (or at least performed) Stateside for a spell in each of the last ten years.   McBride, by contrast, having recently found his entry to TrumpLand barred following an (allegedly, he insisted) drunken swipe at a NYPD Officer.  An incident related in his song The Bottle.

The main event began in an odd manner with a recording of what I took to be an American DJ introducing his listeners to Titus Andronicus in general, and to Patrick Stickles in particular.  I am sure there was an element of irony going on here,  but the recording did appear overly fulsome and did dribble on just a touch too long.  But Stickles eventually entered from the rear of the venue, stomping amongst the tables using a wireless mike to below out Number One (in New York) – the epic rant which opens his band's latest release A Productive Cough.

Patrick Stickles/Titus Andronicus - Glasgow 2018

Patrick and Gordon the Roadsweeper, one of the interviewees in the Q&A

He strapped on a (not acoustic) guitar for the next few, each slightly challenging diatribes which lyrically and musically visited all manner of pleasingly dark places:

"I need a timeout, I need an escape from reality
Or else I need eternal darkness and death, I need an exit strategy
Down in North Carolina, I could have been a productive member of society
But these New Jersey cigarettes and all they require have made a fucking junkie out of me."

It was only when we reached Above The Bodega – a tune pondering how the chap in your local convenience store who sells you your fags and beer, may actually get to know you rather better than your nearest and dearest – that the first sliver of wry humour was injected into proceedings.  A slightly surreal Q&A then followed, with Stickles holding court and taking requests.  

About two thirds of the way throughout the set, fellow TA member Liam Betson ambled on stage to contribute guitar to a few songs, as well as performing a couple of his own; his plaintive almost childlike voice a jarring counterpoint to Stickles' rasping bark.

Liam Betson & Patrick Stickles

The evening closed (there was no encore) with Stickles alone performing what he introduced as “An American Song”.  Which turned out to be a 15 minute medley of Lou Reed compositions, with a few verses of You Can't Always Get What You Want thrown into the mix.  

At the conclusion of it all, Stickles set up a rancid cacophony of feedback which may, or equally may not, have been a chunk of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, just to ensure we all went home with a pleasing thrum in our ears.  

A middle-aged couple seated directly in front of me, who had been nodding along happily to much of the show, gave each a knowing glance as the cacophony arose, the unstated message passing between them being either “What the hell is this?” or “Ah, this is what we came to hear”.  

I could not work out which.

Set List

Number One (in New York)
Theme from “Cheers”
Dimed Out
You Got to Walk That Lonesome Valley
Mass Transit Madness
Above the Bodega
I Lost My Mind
Mr. E. Man
Ecco Homo
No Future Part 1
Lie (Liam Betson)
Off With His Mind (Liam Betson)
To Old Friends and New
Stable Boy
Four Score and Seven
Medley: (Heroin/
Waiting For My Man/
Walk on the Wild Side/
You Can't Always Get What You Want/

You do come across some odd things in Glasgow of a nightime - this was in a shop doorway.

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