I walked into the essential graffiti'd punk rock venue The Meatlocker halfway through the Washington Square Park set, starting the show off with a dose of pop punk. Their in-between song banter definitely needs work but their charisma and attitude do not, as they played an energetic set for a lively audience, complete with instrument destruction to close out their 30 minutes.
Tourmaline played next and won the crowd over with their own brand of rock and roll. Despite the keyboards being too low in the mix and a brand new drummer behind the skins, they played a tight, beer-laced set that garnered some boisterous sing-alongs.
After fidgeting with a broken on/off switch on his amplifier, indie/punk rock hero Ted Leo took the stage for 90 minutes at the fittingly grimy Meatlocker in Montclair, just a town over from his humble beginnings. Sans his backing band the Pharmacists, Ted armed himself with an electric guitar and played akin to a more punk rock Billy Bragg. A slightly apprehensive crowd had weak enthusiasm for his three opening numbers, which included a cover of English crust punk legends Amebix's "Nobody's Driving," but as Mr. Leo launched into perhaps his most popular track "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?", the 100-capacity crowd went, excuse the cliché, wild.
Ted's warm personality shines in this kind of setting -- he's always willing to personally respond to a heckle, comment, or song request comically. When one crowd member asked him what he got for Christmas, Ted responded "My parents got me a book...a gift card to a book store...I guess they know me well." He also was adamant in telling the crowd to support The Meatlocker, as venues like this did not exist when he was growing up in the area. Another funny moment was him relishing in the fact that he was able to open up for Wat Tyler in England and in the middle of his story decided to look up their lyrics on his phone and sing one of their songs a cappella that had lyrics to the tune of "I'm going to pee in the lap of a priest, cum in the eye of a cop, fart in the face of the Queen," etc.
Ted's set list included many tracks from his earlier records The Tyranny of Distance and Hearts of Oak, going as far back as to include "The 'Nice People' Argument" from his oft-ignored sample-laden debut LP tej leo(?), Rx / pharmacists. His guitar solos sounded naked and rushed but playing most of these songs as he normally would without a band sounded surprisingly tuneful. Even a cover of the aggressive "Angelfuck" by the Misfits (who he called the greatest band to ever come out of New Jersey, and coincidentally were having a semi-reunion that night at Sayreville's Starland Ballroom) sounded melodic despite his vigorous, distorted guitar playing.
Ted finished the set with "The Ballad of the Sin Eater," the song he altered the most to suit his solo performances. What on record is generally only bass guitar and drums musically was transformed (for the better) into a palm mute-driven explosion.
Apparently Ted hasn't moved around much, as he joked that he could get home by putting his car in neutral down Bloomfield Ave.
[The review was originally posted in truncated form at nj.com]
- Nothing Much to Say
- Nobody's Driving (Amebix)
- The Sword in the Stone
- Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?
- The 'Nice People' Argument
- Me and Mia
- new song
- The High Party
- Bottle of Buckie
- new song
- Under the Hedge
- Bleeding Powers
- Angelfuck (Misfits)
- Wat Tyler song a cappella (read off his phone)
- Do Anything You Wanna Do (Eddie and the Hot Rods)
- The Ballad of the Sin Eater