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Ted Leo Loves to Play Music

December 7th, 2009

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – The Bowery Ballroom – December 6, 2009

(Photo: Jared Levy)

(Photo: Jared Levy)

Ted Leo is a man of the people. Humorous, self-aware and sweaty, he comes across as a performer equally dedicated to his music and his minion. Fastidiously tuning his Gibson SG guitar throughout the show, Leo noted that it is male and that he would accept tweets regarding what the guitar should be named. It is easy to understand how his ferocious strumming can continually render his guitar out of tune. Over the course of the 90-minute sold-out show at The Bowery Ballroom, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists energetically worked through a set list of old favorites and striking new tunes.

Stupid Party and Jeff the Brotherhood, a fraternal rock duo that plays drums and guitar, opened. The brother’s punk/classic rock-inspired songs and performance displayed showmanship and maturity beyond their youthful appearance. While Jake Orrall, the guitarist and singer, possesses the charisma of a budding rock star, I was most impressed by the head-banging, drumming precision of his brother, Jamin.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists followed almost immediately with a masterful set. “Me and Maia” from their fourth album, Shake the Streets, preceded the new single from their upcoming record, The Brutalist Bricks. Leo comes from a background of punk-influenced music, though his melodies and vocals create a more accessible sound. Fans stood transfixed as he strained and thrashed across the stage. Leo interacted with the audience throughout the show, bantering about the cultural relevance of the crowd’s “wooo” sound at concerts and explaining why he didn’t make a tour date in Toronto. However, no statement was more telling of Leo’s dedication to his fans and music than when he explained, “There is no reason for us to be on tour other than we love playing music.” —Jared Levy

(Jeff the Brotherhood and Stupid Party play Mercury Lounge tonight.)