It's been much, much too long since I've seen Ted Leo live. Numerous opportunities to see the [motherfucking] man have been passed up in the past handful of years since I've become a champion of his highly original blend of rock, dub, soul, and punk. My thrist for this blend of sounds was cured on a hot Sunday night in Cleveland, and how.
Taking the stage first were local band Machine Go Boom. They were absolutely spectacular, to be understated. If Billy Bragg, The Pogues, The Clash, and Against Me! were to engage in sexual relations, you'd end up with something like Machine Go Boom. Their dynamite blend of folk-punk with well-placed keyboards, vocals of both sexes, and politically insightful lyrics made me absolutely kick myself for not having ten dollars to pick up their new CD. Honestly, this is a band that every single reader of this review should check out right now. I bet 99% of you will enjoy them as much as I did.
Up next were Leo's Lookout! labelmates, The Reputation. Their set of competently-played pop-rock was almost a bit too glossy after the raw passion of Machine Go Boom - almost. The songs glimmered with power chords and bright vocal harmonies, and Elizabeth Elmore's voice was as strong as ever behind new drummer Steve Van Horn's powerful backbeat. Their only problem was that they played too long; their songs tend to blend together after the half-hour mark.
After that slight misstep, Ted Leo and his Pharmacists [whittled down to a power trio of guitar, bass, and drums on this tour] took the stage to cheers from an increasingly packed house. Opening with singalong "Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?", Leo had the audience singing along with every chorus for the next hour or so. His set included staples such as "Biomusicology," "Timorous Me," and Under The Hedge," as well as a number of new songs such as "Me and Mia" and "Little Dawn," both of which were incredibly strong and bode well for his new album, out this October.
After leaving the stage sweaty and spent, the crowd cheered for an encore, so an encore we were given. First up was an unexpected solo cover of Rush's "The Spirit Of Radio." Leo nailed the opening guitar riff almost perfectly [after warning the crowd that he attempted the same song a few nights earlier in Brooklyn and totally blew it], and after the song's completion, the rest of the band returned to the stage for two more songs ["Bridges, Squares" and "Parallel Or Together?"] as well as a tease of Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak" due to numerous crowd requests. It was an excellent way to end the night, and everyone in the venue thought the same thing. Long live Ted Leo.
Click here to see Ted Leo's setlist.
EXCLUSIVE LIVE VIDEOS
Ted Leo/Pharmacists - Little Dawn
Ted Leo/Pharmacists - Me and Mia
EXCLUSIVE LIVE PHOTOS