Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Titus Andronicus Played Webster Hall With Craig Finn, 2/29/16

No Faith, No Future, No Problem

I was trying to get my credentials for the evening sorted out at the door when I heard someone politely say, "Hi. I need to make some changes to the Titus Andronicus guest list."

"I can't make any changes now," said the woman working the door. "You need to talk to the promoter. Go wait outside his door, and I'll let him know you're coming."

"Uh... OK... And where would I find that, please?"

"Just around the corner over there."

"Thank you."

I turned, extended my hand and said, "Hi, Patrick," to the questioner and founder / frontman of Titus Andronicus, Patrick Stickles. We said our hellos, and he went off to take care of his issue. At no point during his exchange with the woman at the door did he try to throw his weight around as a member of the headlining band. I don't know. For some reason, that said a lot to me.


I'd come to Webster Hall to see the first night of the Titus Andronicus / Craig Finn "No Faith, No Future, No Problem Tour." My love of both Titus Andronicus and Craig Finn / The Hold Steady should come as no surprise to anyone who's ever stopped by this blog, and to say that this was pretty much a dream show for me would be an understatement. This would be my first time at Webster Hall, so it was excitement all around.

It turned out that last night's show featured a photo pit with the typical "First 3, No Flash" rule. I actually love that. Without it, my OCD takes over; and I end up shooting the show all night instead of just watching. Just after 8pm, security opened the gate and let us in for the start of Craig Finn's set.

Finn's band were a 3-piece with Finn on guitar, Falcon Valdez on drums, and Will Berman on bass. This made for a more low-key sound than Finn featured at Wonder Bar in November when the band were touring as a quartet with guitarist Arun Bali. But it also gave things a feel that was closer to that of Faith in the Future, kind of a quiet record that lets Finn's stories take center stage.

They opened with a stripped down version of Faith in the Future's opening track, "Maggie I've Been Searching for Our Son." The 45-minute set touched on both of Finn's solo records with songs like "Jackson" and a revamped "No Future" from Clear Heart Full Eyes and other Faith... tracks "Christine" and "Newmyer's Roof." Non-album selections included the just-released "Screenwriter's School" along with The Hold Steady's "Certain Songs" and Lifter Puller's "Nassau Coliseum." Finn was also a lower-key version of his Hold Steady frontman persona throughout the set, his wild gesticulations kept to a minimum as he played guitar. We'd get another version of Craig Finn later.

At around 9:15, Patrick Stickles and keyboard player Elio DeLuca took the stage for a quiet rendition of "To Old Friends and New." Stickles stalked the stage with his guitar slung over his shoulder as the audience sang along. At one point, he broke out the harmonica. As the song finished up, the rest of the band made their way out on stage. Titus Andronicus have a different look for this tour with R.J. Gordon taking over bass duties from Julian Veronesi, and was that Pharmacist Chris Wilson on drums in place of Eric Harm?

Following the opening song, the band went into The Most Lamentable Tragedy's opening pairing of "No Future Part IV: No Future Triumphant" and "Stranded (On My Own)." I could feel the barricade heaving behind me as the crowd went crazy. From there, the show careened through several "greatest hits" like "My Time Outside the Womb," "Titus Andronicus," and "No Future Part Three."

I grabbed a spot along the rail to stage left that was up front, where I like to be, but outside the fray in the middle. Things did appear to get a little nuts in the center during the run of songs from TMLT's second act that ends with "Dimed Out." The band closed the Titus Andronicus portion of the evening with "A More Perfect Union" and all 15 or so minutes of "The Battle of Hampton Roads," a song that never feels jammy or overstays its welcome despite its length.

Then it was time for Craig Finn to join the band on stage. Everyone was expecting it when they all lit into The Replacements' "Bastards of Young;" but that didn't lessen the impact, Finn at the edge of the stage, arms spread wide, coaxing the audience to sing along.

"Do you mind if I bring out a friend?" Finn asked, and Hold Steady guitarist Tad Kubler joined everyone for a thundering rendition of "Stuck Between Stations." Finn was in full Hold Steady mode at this point, and the crowd was a sea of raised arms. Everyone left the stage, only to be called out one more time -- Titus Andronicus and Craig Finn -- for a rendition of "I'm Waiting for the Man."

Titus Andronicus, Craig Finn, The Replacements, The Hold Steady, Lou Reed. I couldn't have had a better night. The tour continues tonight in Baltimore and covers the South and Midwest before making its way back East to wind up in Philly on 3/27. Catch them if you can.

You can see shots of both sets at the links below.

Titus Andronicus

Craig Finn

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