Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Live Review - Fucked Up / Titus Andronicus @ Le Poisson Rouge

New York City Gets Fucked Up
By Bill Reese*

If the rumors are true and Damian Abraham is planning to leave Fucked Up at the end of 2011, then last night’s performance “in the round” at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan will go down as one of the band’s legendary performances. The Toronto-based 6-piece—accompanied by a String Quartet—ripped through David Comes to Life, their four-act, 18-song, 78-minute rock opera like a runaway train.

As leader of the band, Abraham is less of a frontman and more of a mascot. He didn’t make it through his first song without ripping off a black T-shirt and completing the rest of the set topless, as is his custom. His vocals are gravelly, punishing, at times sounding as though he pained with every lyric. That said, the crowd were more than willing to assist this great white bear of a man, as he pushed the mic into the face of any fan he spotted singing along. He wasted no opportunity to share the mic and he spared no raised hand from a big sweaty high-five.

The stage at LPR was centered on the floor, offering everyone in attendance an up-close view, but Abraham took it a step further. He climbed up to the raised terrace lounge and sang with the VIP section. Later he sang “Remember My Name” from atop the bar like something out of a demented Coyote Ugly. He slam-danced with fans at the front of the stage and sang along with crowdsurfers, arm-in-arm, as if they were members of the band. Thing is, everybody was a member of Fucked Up, whether they realized it or not.

While Damian Abraham is a spectacle in-and-of himself, the triple-guitar, bass and drum combo of Fucked Up delivered an absolutely blistering set. Billy Joe Armstrong ain’t got shit on Fucked Up. This is the best riff-writing machine in Punk, hands down, and if asked they’d take on any Heavy Metal challengers as well. Their riffs are built like German sports cars, fast, sleek, surprisingly elegant. David Comes to Life has more hooks than a tackle shop, especially in the anthemic “Turn the Season,” the scream-along “Under My Nose,” and the fiery “Serve Me Right.”

By the beginning of Act IV of the 4-act opus, Abraham was running out of steam, but not spirit. A young Daryl Palumbo could jump around just as much and yell just as loud as Abraham, but he didn’t also have to lug around a solid 250—maybe even 300 pounds with him. It was exhausting just watching the lead singer stumble across the finish line as the band wrapped up David Comes to Life, with Abraham holding the mic aloft with one arm as the string quartet played them out. In case that wasn’t enough, the band came back out for a 3-song encore or previous work.

If Fucked Up had a thin, whiny singer, or a moniker that didn’t automatically disqualify them from any radio airplay, they would be the biggest band in Canada and would be one of the most popular bands in the United States. They don’t have either and we are all better off for it. Damian Abraham may be on his way to a well-deserved retirement or hiatus, but the brainchilds behind Fucked Up: guitarists Mike Haliechuk, Josh Zucker and Ben Cook; bassist Sandy Miranda; and drummer Jonah Falco, aren’t done yet. They’re amazingly intelligent songwriters and flawless musicians. If there was any doubt that David Comes to Life isn’t this reporter’s album of the year, those doubts are as torn to shreds as the Fucked Up singer’s vocal cords.

Oh yeah, and NJ hardcore heroes Titus Andronicus opened the show, playing a few new songs that may very well appear on the follow up to last year’s epic The Monitor. Singer/guitarist Patrick Stickles credited Fucked Up for teaching them that it was okay to write 7-minute punk epics. The new tracks sounded like a more-refined version of tunes from their debut An Airing of Grievances and were generally devoid of references to the American Civil War or any other major theme. One tune, a song Stickles dedicated to the band’s label—who he suggested would be happy to hear a 3-minute song for a change—was particularly catchy, showing signs that Stickles fellow New Jerseian Bruce Springsteen is rubbing off on the frontman a bit. Another new track, “Food Fight,” tackled Stickles’ self-described eating disorder, and went from being a frolicky Clash-esque riff to a distorted late-era Nirvana dirge towards the end. It was the band’s third show with new guitarist Liam Betson, who replaced the effervescent Amy Klein.

*Bill Reese is a contributing writer to Officially A Yuppie. He is also the Host of our podcast, Officially A Podcast.