Against Me! / Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Against Me! / Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: live in Philadelphialive in Philadelphia (2008)
Warner Music Group

Reviewer Rating: 5

Contributed by: JeloneJelone
(others by this writer | submit your own)

They opened with "Cliché Guevara." The band started it off too slow but I decided 10 seconds in that I didn't care and put everything I had into screaming "1-2-3-4!" The set had just started and my voice was already shot. Lightheaded. Tingling. Should have had dinner. I can tell how out of shape I'.

They opened with "Cliché Guevara." The band started it off too slow but I decided 10 seconds in that I didn't care and put everything I had into screaming "1-2-3-4!" The set had just started and my voice was already shot. Lightheaded. Tingling. Should have had dinner. I can tell how out of shape I've become since my last Against Me! show based on how quickly I get winded the next time. People used to bear down and beat me from every side and I'd still be able to shout every line; now I'm standing up front but without any violence and I'm winded worse than ever. But I couldn't stop stomping my feet, bobbing my head, and feeling giddy as hell over the music.

The above is what I felt when I saw Against Me! headline Philadelphia's Electric Factory Thursday, October 9 with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and Future of the Left. The show was pretty much amazing from start to finish. The venue took a little while to fill up, perhaps due to the Phillies-Dodgers game, perhaps because it was a school night. It's a shame more folks didn't catch Future of the Left. While I was initially repulsed by their post-punk Gang of Four / XTC / PiL / [insert '80s band here] style, I found myself becoming more and more intrigued with each song. The band is much more aggressive than most post-punk revivalists, putting them in closer league with maybe Mindless Self Indulgence or maybe even Big Black. The trio was just as entertaining with their banter as they were with their songs, dealing with a heckler by saying, "I don't come to where you work and interrupt you. I don't slap the dicks out of your mouth." Dick jokes rule forever!

Celtic punker Ted Leo was snappy too, chastising a fan for requesting "Since U Been Gone" with, "If we were friends, you would not ask me that." Mostly, though, Leo just tore through last year's Living with the Living with the energy of someone half his age. I hope I look that cool when I'm 38. Opening his set with "Sons of Cain," Leo and his three supporting Pharmacists were irrepressibly peppy. This being my first Leo experience, I was disappointed at the lack of Tyranny of Distance / Hearts of Oak material, but at least I got "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?", which is still my favorite Ted tune, and "Biomusicology." Besides, hearing songs like "Army Bound" and "Who Do You Love?" bathed in dirty guitar chords, pounding drums and Leo's wonderfully expansive voice was worthwhile. Leo is one those performers who I could watch play endlessly; the set list kind of doesn't matter. I'll accept Chisel, Trebel in Trouble, sound collages, Kelly Clarkson covers, whatever.

Another highlight was a sloppy rendition of "Little Dawn," from 2004's Shake the Sheets. Drummer Chris Wilson had some trouble keeping up with Leo, but the ramshackle rendition felt more alive, or at least more punk-y. The set ended up being too brief at about 45 minutes, but I still felt deeply moved by the band's energy. Now if only I could get some "Timorous Me" up in here‚?¶

As for the black-clad members of Against Me!, well, they played it too safe early on, with set openers "Cliché Guevara" and "New Wave" performed efficiently but too slowly. Things picked up by "White People for Peace." Drummer Warren Oakes was a flash of arms and wide grins while bassist Andrew Seward brought the crowd the gift of hand claps and intense stares. As for co-vocalists Tom Gabel and James Bowman, well, they're perfect together. Gabel was guttural, while Bowman's voice soared thanks to his impossibly kickass lungs.

AM!'s live show has started to scale back from New Wave material, with only six songs from that album showing up. New Wave was still clearly a heavy influence on the set list, but more material from Reinventing Axl Rose worked into the show, including "Walking Is Still Honest," "Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious‚?¶" and "Reinventing Axl Rose." Searching for a Former Clarity got some love via "Miami," "Pretty Girls (The Mover)," "From Her Lips to God's Ears (The Shaker)" and "Don't Lose Touch."

While I enjoyed Against Me!'s main set for its better blend of material past and present, it was the band's encore that really did it for me. Not that I'm criticizing them, but the group's live show has become somewhat standardized for a band that tours so frequently. As much as I love New Wave, I've heard those songs so many times in the last year and a half. I'd be happy to hear "Problems," let alone a rarity like "Wagon Wheel" or "Gypsy Panther." Luckily, Gable delivered in the end.

Gabel is set to tour solo with Hot Water Music's Chuck Ragan, Avail's Tim Barry, and Lucero's Ben Nichols for "The Revival Tour" this month, but that outing won't hit Philly. Perhaps that's why Gabel started the encore with "Cowards Sing at Night," from his upcoming solo EP Heart Burns. He didn't really explain the lyrics too much, but with a line like "Come back home Johnny / Come back home from Vietnam," it's kind of hard not to see the tune as an anti-John McCain song. Anyone who wants to protest the "maverick" who can't figure out how many houses he owns, let alone how to fix our economy or bring our troops home or use a computer, is OK in my book. The dug-up corpse of Ronald Reagan cannot save you now, buck-o.

The band came out after "Cowards" to perform "The Disco Before the Breakdown," which I have never heard live before. So, that was kind of cool. The instrumental sections sounded a little empty without any horns, but who cares? Fast-forward to show-ender "We Laugh at Danger (And Break All the Rules)." After a hard-hitting one-hour set, the band finished its four-song encore strong, delivering one of the best numbers they've ever written. There was plenty of grinning and clapping throughout, and the audience finally went off for a little bit. At no point during the show did the floor go insane, but "We Laugh at Danger" gave the crowd a nice shot of adrenaline. I mustered up what was left of my voice and screamed every line back to the band, connected with every other person in the venue through music. And then Prince's "Purple Rain" came on over the loudspeaker.


People who liked this also liked:
Fake Problems - How Far Our Bodies GoAgainst Me! - New WaveThe Gaslight Anthem - Se√Īor and the QueenThe Lawrence Arms - Buttsweat and Tears [7 inch]Against Me! - Searching For A Former ClarityHorseback - Half BloodSt. Vincent - Krokodil [7-inch]Tenement - Taking Everything [7-inch]Face to Face - All For Nothing EP [10-inch]Terraformer - The Sea Shaper

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
etwiels88 (October 16, 2008)

Purrrpleee Raiiin, Purrplee Rainnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

etwiels88 (October 16, 2008)

Show was alright. I enjoyed Future of the Left. Ted could have played a better set, he was a little sloppy. Against Me's set was great, but there stage presence just wasn't what it should have been. Meh :(

Adlai_E_Stevenson (October 16, 2008)

Hopefully seeing this tour when it comes through Seattle.

Score is for Purple Rain.

genebuonaccorsi (October 15, 2008)

i cannot fucking believe that I was in new york last saturday and did not go see this. they played disco before the breakdown and walking is still honest. im kicking myself.

nameless (October 15, 2008)

Nice review. Sounds like it was a fantastic show.

jacknife737 (October 15, 2008)

nice review.

eazyd2 (October 15, 2008)

needs more gabel.

red_eye_inc (October 15, 2008)

This show is going to kick ass on Friday. Taking the train and seeing Chuck Ragan an hour later across town ain't too shabby either.

Torgo (October 15, 2008)

Score is for the Ted Leo crowd repsonse being NOTHING in NEW JERSEY, his home state. Not only that, but no one seemed to know the Hybrid Moments cover.

shark-e (October 15, 2008)

I attended this show.
Personally, I think TL/Rx upstaged the shit out of Against Me! based solely on their performances. However, the crowd response told a different story.
Against Me is without a doubt a great live band, but they really need to vary their sets more. I left the show thinking "I want to see Ted Leo again already" but found myself already forgetting AM!'s performance.
However, my hands hurt almost as much as my throat at the end of the night, so that has to count for something.

wyzo (October 15, 2008)

(The trio was just as entertaining with their banter as they were with their songs, dealing with a heckler by saying, ‚??I don‚??t come to where you work and interrupt you. I don‚??t slap the dicks out of your mouth.‚?Ě)

It's a mangled Mr.Show quote from the pit-pat sketch. Points for the reference, points taken away from sneaking it in incognito to an unsuspecting crowd. Bob Odenkirk and David Cross are suiting somebody. Come up with your own banter.

Otherwise, alright review as reviews go.

MrSnrub (October 15, 2008)

A baller set. Definitely the best I've seen them play since March 07 in Jersey. Blown away by The Mover, Disco Before the Breakdown, and Reinventing Axl Rose. Also, the Tom Gable is playing the barbary in philly on Nov. 19th.

Cox_Attack (October 15, 2008)

Score is for Ted Leo being slapped with a 45 minute set. I seen the man play for 2 hours and still walked away wanting more.

skankbook (October 15, 2008)

Well written review.

The Phillies are the only reason I didn't attend this show, and while I'm not upset at my decision to watch the game, I am upset that I missed seeing "Disco Before the Breakdown" and "Pretty Girls."

Ted Leo sounds like he was great, as always. I've seen him at a nearly sold out TLA show and in Lancaster with 15 other people, and he still has a way to make it an intimate experience.


lostandclowned (October 15, 2008)

oh brian, you missed two killer shows. tom did an in-store at Generation that day.

inagreendase (October 15, 2008)

Score is for not knowing this show came through NYC on Saturday until 6:00 that day.

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