Photographs by Sarah Rix.
It’s so easy to get accustomed to the deliberate, measured pace of a recorded album. Digital recording and retakes are amazing tools, but they don’t capture everything. No matter the passion and fire behind it, there’s a lack of fallibility or humanity at play. This is why we hunger for live music. Opening the night was Spider Bags from North Carolina. Like their namesake, Titus Andronicus served up a big ol’ slice of humanity at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.
After meandering on and off stage for close to half an hour, lead singer Patrick Stickles grabbed his guitar and addressed the crowd over the opening keys of Four Score and Seven. “We’re gonna rock right now. Or maybe in a few minutes.” Continuing in a rambling stream of consciousness monologue, excitement built in the audience. By the time he began to sing, he was joined by a chorus of spirited concertgoers. The room swelled in more than just a physical sense and a vague camaraderie seemed to settle in. As the remainder of the band filed in and took their places, the crowd was ecstatic. At the first beat of the drum the room exploded, bodies crashing in furious waves.
Titus Andronicus’ latest album is a masterpiece of construction and thematic layering, but it’s live that you understand why they really are such a solid group. Each song stands on its own as a textured performance that shifts and moves organically. There’s a trust at the core of the band that shows itself repeatedly. Thundering drums and squealing guitar solos give way to tinny toybox guitars and harmonica without lapsing in intensity. Stickles’ gravelly voice belts out loud and raw, backed by a rich and full sound. There’s an unbridled joy in the performance that lifts the spirits. If that sounds pompous, you haven’t witnessed the jubilance of simultaneous anthemic guitars assisting one another. Band and crowd alike were a sweaty mess with glowing smiles around the room.
With a career spanning set, Titus Andronicus delivered on all counts. Far from the polish of a recording studio, they put their heart on a platter in front of a rabid crowd. If you didn’t catch them, you missed out. I guess that’s why we have recorded albums, right?