There's something strangely New England about Ted Leo. Back at the turn of the century, long before he and the Pharmacists were playing Bonnaroo or Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Ted was briefly a Bostonian. Every few weeks, he would play solo sets upstairs at the Middle East, hammering out skeletal, experimental versions of songs while using only a Danelectro and an array of tape loops and samples. Though the songs were arranged for a full band, Ted played them alone, tearing off squalling solos over the beat of an implied drummer.
Many of those songs would eventually become 2001's The Tyranny of Distance, which is our generation's My Aim Is True and, in many ways, the Pharmacists album most similar to this year's The Brutalist Bricks. Playing to a very full capacity SPACE Gallery, Leo's set was exuberant and Bricks-heavy. Returned are the rich and stabby guitar tones of James Canty, who, live, plays a tremendous second fiddle to Leo's limitless energy, allowing him to tackle new burners like "Mourning in America" and "Bottled in Cork" with full vocal focus.
Whether it's the Crass fan in him or the Irish influence, Leo's songs seem to always make good shout-alongs, and it's a testament to his 20-year experience playing live that Ted's showmanship wasn't dulled by Portland's stand-and-nod approach to live music. Despite a constant barrage of requests for mixtape favorites of the past decade, Leo romped through the heart of his new album, playing stirring versions of even the weaker tracks, such as "Ativan Eyes."
And though everyone in the room had read the script for the encore, attention was rapt as the Pharmacists closed with Leo's most unorthodox song, Tyranny's "Stove By A Whale." After swelling into a miraculously noisy eight-minute din, Leo hammered through the familiar outro melody, his band brutally in tow.
: New England Music News
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