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In addition to one of the most awesome neck-beards in the business, Patrick Stickles possesses one of the sharpest wits in rock and roll. Throughout the 80-minute set at the Belly Up, the Titus Andronicus frontman — understandably bemused at the predicament of opening for the radio-friendly Free Energy — knocked down hecklers, ricocheted around the stage as if stung by a stun gun, and mercilessly tweaked the headliners with lines like, "If Free Energy's handlers are around, maybe they could, like, sign some stuff for us? that would be awesome!" Answering a shouted request for "Attitude," Stickles replied "Bad Brains or Misfits?"

Drawing material from their literate 2010 release The Monitor, Titus Andronicus crafted a well-paced, guitar-driven set, building up level after level of operatic punk-rock intensity that resolved to false endings and pogo-riffic, feedback-drenched choruses.

With an air of Garden State earnestness, when Stickles sings/croaks "Everything makes me nervous, and nothing feels good for no reason," you want to take away his shoelaces. In contrast to Stickles's bordering-on-churlish intensity, guitarist-violinist Amy Klein grinned and glowed while punctuating songs like lead-off "A More Perfect Union" with slashing upstroke chords and decorating the show centerpiece, the 14-minute "The Battle Of Hampton Roads," with bagpipe-like violin.

In a perfect elegy for an atypically cool San Diego summer, Titus Andronicus left the near-capacity crowd's ears ringing and clothing sweat-soaked.

  • Concert: Titus Andronicus
  • Date: September 5
  • Venue: Belly Up Tavern
  • Seats: SRO
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