Monday, November 9, 2015

On All-Inclusive Setlists

As you may or may not have noticed, I didn't post a new blog last Friday. This was because I was in Bristol for a Titus Andronicus gig at Thekla, and it's difficult to concentrate on blogging when your legs still ache from being jackknifed into a Megabus seat.

Also, I'd left my laptop at home.

Anyway, Titus Andronicus were excellent, exuding a remarkable energy and giving me plenty of opportunities to shout my favourite lines at the top of my voice ("You will always be a loser", indeed.)

Perhaps the best thing about the show, however, was the setlist, which ran roughly as follows:

Upon Viewing Bruegel's 'Landscape with the Fall of Icarus'
Still Life with Hot Deuce and Silver Platter
Stranded (On My Own)
In a Big City
Fatal Flaw
Come On, Siobhan
Joset of Nazareth's Blues
Tried to Quit Smoking
Dimed Out
A More Perfect Union
Titus Andronicus Forever
A Pot in Which to Piss
No Future Part V: In Endless Dreaming
No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future
Titus Andronicus
Brown Sugar (The Rolling Stones cover)

I'm not 100% sure about the order of that list, but the order's not important - what's important is the songs that they played, and more specifically, the albums that those songs call home.

Here's that list again, with annotations to show which album each song originally appeared on:

Upon Viewing Bruegel's 'Landscape with the Fall of Icarus' [from The Airing of Grievances]
Still Life with Hot Deuce and Silver Platter [from Local Business]
Stranded (On My Own) [from The Most Lamentable Tragedy]
In a Big City [from Local Business]
Fatal Flaw [from The Most Lamentable Tragedy]
Come On, Siobhan [from The Most Lamentable Tragedy]
Joset of Nazareth's Blues [from The Airing of Grievances]
Tried to Quit Smoking [from Local Business]
A More Perfect Union [from The Monitor]
Titus Andronicus Forever [from The Monitor]
Dimed Out [from The Most Lamentable Tragedy]
A Pot in Which to Piss [from The Monitor]
No Future Part V: In Endless Dreaming [from The Most Lamentable Tragedy]
No Future Part III: Escape From No Future [from The Monitor]
Titus Andronicus [from The Airing of Grievances]

Excluding interludey, incidental stuff like Please and Sun Salutation - which I've left off these lists for the sake of simplicity - here's a quick summary of each album's representation on Friday night:
  • The Airing of Grievances: 3 songs // 20% of the setlist
  • The Monitor: 4 songs // 27% of the setlist
  • Local Business: 3 songs // 20% of the setlist
  • The Most Lamentable Tragedy: 5 songs // 33% of the setlist
Mm, numbers. Here's the thing: when you go to see an established band play live, you kind of expect the setlist to consist primarily of material from their most recent LP. This will be mixed in with a smattering of hits and, if you're lucky, one or two album tracks from previous releases.

Now, to be fair, Titus Andronicus did play more songs from The Most Lamentable Tragedy on Friday night than from any of its predecessors. But, to be even fairer, The Most Lamentable Tragedy is 29 tracks long, which is equal to the other three albums combined - I'm frankly surprised the Thekla set wasn't more heavily weighted towards the recent rock opera.

I like bands who bring all of their albums to the table when writing their setlists. It means that, no matter which bit of the back catalogue you're familiar with, you'll hear something you know; it doesn't matter if you lost touch with the band after The Airing of Grievances came out back in 2008, or if you only discovered them this year when everyone started talking about TMLT, because neither record went unacknowledged. Even Local Business, which - as Patrick Stickles pointed out - was never released in the UK, was present and correct in Bristol on Friday.

So file this under 'Things I Wish More Bands Would Do'. It would have been nice if, for example, Iron Maiden had played a few songs from albums other than A Matter of Life and Death when I saw them in 2006.

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