I have seen both the Hold Steady and Titus Andronicus live in concert, and both shows were just pure, energetic, rock ’n’ roll bliss. So when I heard they were playing together on the same bill, I had to partake. I was set for one raucous good time filled with punk-rock Jersey angst and the anthemic, verbose storytelling of Craig Finn. The night mostly lived up to my expectations, but there were parts of the show that definitely seemed off.
The show was at the Brooklyn Bazaar, a pop-up venue of sorts in a Williamsburg warehouse that was predominantly an indoor marketplace. At first I actually envisioned a stage nestled in the corner of the marketplace with the bands rocking out on it, but they ended up being separate entities within the huge building. The venue was a cavernous space with a half pipe, picnic tables with some choice Brooklyn-based food vendors and then the stage itself. All in all it was a huge space that was too big for its own good, especially for two bands that thrive in small venues.
I didn’t recognize Titus Andronicus at first when the band members came onto the stage; lead singer Patrick Stickles was baby-faced and clean cut, and Amy Klein left a void. The players seemed awkward together; their sounds were less abrasive and lacked the masterful precision that Klein added to their punk-rock sound both with her guitar work and fiddle. They got into a better groove when they started playing tracks from The Monitor, and ex-Titus member/Deer Tick guitarist Ian O’Neill rocked out with them for a few songs.
Thankfully, the Hold Steady was on point with its performance, as usual. The group played a killer mix of its whole catalog ranging from 2006’s Boys And Girls In America to the newer albums, Stay Positive and Heaven Is Whenever. The Hold Steady started off its set with a blistering version of “Sequestered In Memphis” and from then on plowed through hook-laced, bar-rock anthems. Standout tracks were “Chips Ahoy,” “Rock ‘N’ Roll Problems” and “South Town Girls.” Finn exhibited giddy joy as an astounding amount of fans sang back his every word. I get winded trying to sing along with his songs that read like short stories packed into three-minutes songs. That is why I stick to the choruses.