This show was originally scheduled in a local bar in a bad part of town which had to be relocated as the venue was due to be demolished for making student apartments. They then moved the show to an even worse part of town in a converted old school hall, probably the weirdest place I've been to a show in. Inside there was a canvas sheet to preserve the backstage area with a projector beaming images of people wrestling and cars on roads.
First up were three-piece math-rockers (so they claimed) Lords. They had two guitarists and a drummer, but still sounded vaguely heavy besides the lack of bass. They introduced one song saying it was "supposed to sound out of time," which said to me that they're not really confident about their music if they have to explain/make excuses for it. They weren't bad but people couldn't get into the awkward rhythms.
Next up was the three-piece Red Monkey. With female/male dual vocals they were a breath of fresh air and had an interesting sound, even stopping one song where the guitarist/bassist got extra percussion instruments up to the mic and just did a drum-based outro. It was pretty good stuff.
Walking onstage and setting up with his Pharmacists after a short break, Ted Leo introduced himself and told us that the band hadn't had a soundcheck, so if anything sounded wrong, just let them know. He tuned his guitar and asked people at the front if the volume was okay. After joking around for a minute or two the band kicked into "2nd Ave, 11 AM."
After playing, Ted spoke about how good it was to be back in the UK, mixing in nervous strums of chords in between speaking. After that, they started playing "Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone," making me worry for a second that they would blow their musical load way too early in the set. During the solo guitar riff midway through the song Ted stopped mid-song and asked if the bass should be louder, to which his anonymous bassist turned up, as they continued the song.
Next up was an older song I didn't know, and then some more stuff from his 2004 release Shake The Sheets. Ted dedicated "Counting Down The Hours" to the people out in Iraq after a short introduction about the war being shitty. He also prefaced another song as being a "thinly veiled political...thing," commenting that we could just ignore the meaning as it was American politics.
Midway through the set these drunk guys got up front, and one shouted "Forsooth!" at Ted, who responded "Forsooth? Yeah, this one's for sooth, for thee, for thine and thou..." and started playing another song. A highlight for me was "Me And Mia" halfway through the set. Ted asked if anyone was going to the Dropkick Murphys show the next night, and dedicated "Timorous Me" to them. Mid-way through one song he told the crowd that he was losing his voice and apologised for it.
When it came to playing the fantastic "The Ballad Of The Sin Eater," he introduced it by putting his guitar down and telling everyone it was a drum and bass only song. He told us how at the previous night's show he had "bartered this song for a golden Rush coin." He yelled out each line to the song in double time, with everyone in the place joining in with the chorus. The aforementioned drunk guys asked if they could get onstage, and one of them got handed the cowbell and drumstick that Ted had borrowed off another band before the song. The guy was dancing onstage with the band and everyone was going crazy.
After a short break, the band was back for their encore, and played two more songs, including a solo rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Factory Girl." After a short speech talking about how Ted described their sound to be a mixture of Thin Lizzy and the Clash, they played a closing song which I wasn't familiar with but tended to drag just a little...not the best song to finish up with.
With one of the most unique and memorable vocal styles around that just has to be heard live, and a tight rhythm section that has more hair than the Mars Volta, it's safe to say that Ted Leo is indeed the motherfucking man.
Setlist (not guaranteed for order/accuracy, I'm a relatively new fan):
- 2nd Ave, 11 AM
- Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?
- ---Older Song---
- Me And Mia
- The One Who Got Us Out
- Counting Down The Hours
- Little Dawn
- The High Party
- Timorous Me
- The Crane Takes Flight
- The Ballad Of The Sin Eater
- Factory Girl (Rolling Stones cover)
- ---Unknown song/cover---