Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - live in Kearny (Cover Artwork)

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

live in Kearny (2009)

live show

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists playing in their home state at essentially a VFW? Let's do it. But first, the only opening band, Titus Andronicus.

Titus Andronicus (a band also from only a few minutes away where the show was located) walked on stage and lead singer/guitarist Patrick Stickles reminded everyone to wish their father a happy Father's Day and went into "Joset of Nazareth's Blues." Patrick started the song with solo harmonica and as he slammed it onto the ground before he sang, the crowd knew TA were going to put on a fierce set regardless of the fact that the 215-capacity venue was only one-quarter full. Titus were loud, brash and played their 45 minutes as if the room was packed and they were headlining.

As they played on an older straight-laced man in a clean white polo and army haircut was next to me -- I didn't think much of it; I thought he was one of the owners. After "My Time Outside the Womb" the aforementioned very shaggy-looking, gaunt and heavily bearded Patrick Stickles noticed that man and told the crowd that was his father. His dad screamed back "I love you son!" as Titus went into a new song about Patrick drinking Guinness on his porch with his father. A cute experience indeed.

The peak of TA's set was their last three songs; at this point the room was three-quarters full and stomping, clapping and singing along. "Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ" and "Titus Andronicus" are standouts on their record and standouts live as well. The last song they played was of that caliber but I didn't recognize it and I don't believe it was one of the two songs they didn't off their debut LP. 45 minutes was perfect for TA and I'm sure they made some new fans.

Set list:

  1. Joset of Nazareth's Blues
  2. Arms Against Atrophy
  3. My Time Outside the Womb
  4. new song
  5. Upon Viewing Brueghel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus"
  6. new song
  7. No Future Part Two: The Day After No Future
  8. Titus Androncius Forever
  9. Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ
  10. Titus Andronicus
  11. new song?
T Lo and the Pharmaskittles took the stage after only a 20-minute setup and started with "Little Dawn." Ted told the crowd he planned on talking very little between songs, but he seems to say this every show and fails miserably. Instantly realizing being in front of stage left, Chris Wilson's crash symbol covering his glorious beard, I immediately had to move more towards center stage/stage right to able to see Ted Leo better and Chris's odd looks-like-I'm-chewing-while-I-play maneuver.

During "Me and Mia" Ted Leo broke his D string and during the second reggae-ish verse he ran to the side of the stage, popped open his hard-shell guitar case and plugged in his spare guitar faster than anyone I've ever seen in my life. Integrating himself back into the song wasn't as seamless, however. Ted thought the band was going into a different part of the chorus. But after realizing they weren't on the same page Ted screamed "STOP!" and started the last chorus by himself and the band came in, everyone on stage laughing.

Ted's parents were both at the show and he informed us that the referee in the "Colleen" video was his father, and retroactively dedicated that song to him. Ted was his usual charming self -- talking with the crowd, narrating some amusing anecdotes. He was under the weather and coughed through many breaks in the set. He seemed a little surprised, telling the audience "I don't drink that much, I'm vegan, I exercise...why do I keep getting sick?" Of course the crowd responded with "You need to drink more!" He also mentioned getting bit by a tick in Tennessee which didn't help.

An underappreciated aspect of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists's show is guitarist James Canty. He plays off Ted very well, interweaving guitar leads, and I always looked forward to him soloing (more aggressive and primal), a nice counterbalance in the songs with a pop foundation.

As the Pharmacists went to go get beers, Ted started the encore by himself playing "Dirty Old Town" and "Fisherman's Blues," both very fitting as we were in an Irish American Club. The crowd got a kick out of them both, especially the former, which a girl to my left was screaming for at every set break. It also helped that it was dedicated to Kearny and Bloomfield, NJ, areas of Ted Leo's youth. "Timorous Me," of course, got the biggest crowd reaction, with a handful of guys holding two beers each coming from the middle of the floor to the front to dance in front of Ted Leo. "Walking to Do" and "Stove by a Whale" continued the most intense part of the set as the band never seemed more locked in than during "Stove by a Whale," complete with four-man fills and ringing distortion. The guitarists leaned their guitars in front of their amps, thanked the crowd and ran off the stage, Chris Wilson to the outside for a smoke.

Set list:
  1. Little Dawn
  2. Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?
  3. Parallel or Together?
  4. Mourning in America
  5. Under the Hedge
  6. new song ("Stick" on set list)
  7. Me and Mia
  8. Army Bound
  9. Colleen
  10. new song ("Cork" on set list)
  11. new song ("Where Was My Brain?")
  12. A Bottle of Buckie
  13. Counting Down the Hours
  14. new song ("The Mighty Sparrow")
  15. The Angels' Share
  16. Heart Problems
  17. new song ("Even Heroes Have to Die")
  18. Who Do You Love?
  19. The Crane Takes Flight
  20. Dirty Old Town
  21. Fisherman's Blues
  22. Timorous Me
  23. Walking to Do
  24. Stove by a Whale