Until this past Sunday, that is.
Instead of the beachside resort with a Jacuzzi in the master bedroom, my wife and I ambled over to the Chameleon here in Lancaster to catch Ted Leo & the Pharmacists regale a couple hundred folks who, like me, decided an hour or two in a dark room with Mr. Leo and his Pharmacists was a more interesting way to spend an evening.
The only way it could have been better is if Ted and the gang played while I soaked my hip and hammys, but I’ll take what we got.
What we got was an inspired – though shortened because of a sinus infection – performance with one of the true punk bards in an “industry” sorely lacking of such things. In a workmanlike and rip-roaring set, Leo and the tightly knit Pharmacists (the demure Dave Lerner on bass and epically bearded Chris Wilson on drums) mixed in a few new ones from a soon-to-be released recording with the older favorites. Leo and the gang did this despite revealing that he was fighting a “bloody sinus infection” and working with a fingernail rebuilt with super glue.
Like an athlete trying to make it through a season, Leo says he does what it takes to make it through touring nine months out of the year. Better yet, the fact that Leo and his Pharmacists are able to get so many gigs even when they aren’t supporting a new record, DVD or some other multimedia explosion is a testament to the band’s ethic and spirit.
From a few interviews, it appears as if Leo is often asked about his ferocious ethic and why he chooses to grind out a living as a musician as opposed to something more mainstream or bourgeoisie. For instance, try this one:
So how to describe Leo for the uninitiated? According to a dispatch in a Hartford Courant from writer Brian LaRue:
Ted Leo’s almost impossibly melodic and wordy Celtic-Motown-punk rock tunes have themselves given thousands of fans hope in the face of political, social and personal bad vibes, certain events of 2006 have demonstrated that Ted Leo himself is one wiry, literary vegan in his mid-thirties whom you probably shouldn’t mess with. Dude is a veritable vibe-bulldozer.
That’s a hell of a paragraph with a lot to digest. Certainly there is a punk tinge to Leo’s work, kind of like a lot of the bands from England that followed The Clash to the U.S. during the late 1970s. Those bands weren’t “punk” like the Sex Pistols or Ramones, but they were “punk” because they had a DIY and progressive ethic.
Billy Bragg certainly comes to mind and is a popular starting point for many music writers. I suppose that’s fair simply because I remember the very first time I ever heard Billy Bragg just as I remember the very first time I heard Ted Leo. In fact, I can recall sitting in a chillingly cool air-conditioned room in New York City during my first year of college and hearing Bragg’s unmistakable brogue and jagged guitar. I also remember saying out loud to anyone who was in the vicinity, “Oh my. What is this”?
It was “A New England,” just as it was “Timorous Me” nearly 15 years later.
Actually, it seems as if the group is are a bunch of “musician’s musicians.” Though I’m far from an insider, most of the people I know who are speak glowingly about Leo. Is there a better compliment than one from one’s peers?
Anyway, Leo and the gang appear to have offered a more inspiring performance on Sunday night than the local football team. Besides, it’s pretty difficult to not shake and shimmy when “Me & Mia” gets going.
Ted Leo + Pharmacists in Philadelphia on Dec. 10, 2004
But by the time we got home there was still a lot of football to be played in Indianapolis. However, my wife grabbed the remote and opted for Brokeback Mountain on HBO instead of the Eagles. I guess they are kind of the same, right?
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