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Review Tue Jul 26 2011

Review: Ted Leo & Pharmacists @ Millennium Park, 7/25

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Ted Leo (photos by Kirstie Shanley)

Ten years ago Ted Leo released his first real solo album, The Tyranny of Distance. (That Tej Leo thing shouldn't count.) To commemorate it this summer he's played it front-to-back a couple times on the east coast. Early Monday afternoon, he tweeted that he was considering playing it again at the summer's last New Music Monday concert at Millennium Park. A few people replied that it would be perfectly satisfactory with them for him to do so. And so when he and his longtime band walked out on stage, he quickly confirmed it. But before that, they'd need to warm up with a few other songs. Kicking off with perhaps his biggest hit, the Specials-inspired "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?", he got the crowd jazzed up from the get-go. From there it was onto "Me & Mia" and a handful of songs from his latest 2 albums. Even with a banged up knee, Leo bounded around the stage with the enthusiasm that's been a staple of his live shows forever.

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James Canty on guitar (photos by Kirstie Shanley)

Once "Biomusicology" began The Tyranny of Distance, the crowd immediately found an extra gear and the applause soared following every song. Not that it wasn't rapturous before, but it's special when someone decides basically on a whim that they're going to play an old and terrific album in its entirety. Of course, the trade-off is that the element of surprise is completely neutralized. There is no sense of anticipation because fans know what comes next. But is that loss worthwhile to know exactly what'll be heard? Let's say you love a song from the album and it isn't played live very often. Would you rather have the guarantee you'll hear it? Or are you more interested in the potential pandemonium that'll ensue during its first recognizable notes? (Let's not even discuss if you don't like the album.) It's different for everyone. But it does factor into the overall mood when everyone sits in near silence between songs instead of yelling obscure requests or mumbling to each other, "Think they'll play [x]?" And, let's face it; Ted Leo shows are usually marked by energy and chatter, even though Monday is the least talkative I've seen him. (He did say he'd leave his banter for Tuesday's sold out Fireside Bowl gig.)

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Chris Wilson on drums (photos by Kirstie Shanley)

However, the album was not played exactly like it was recorded. Since many of its songs are played night after night, the arrangements have been tweaked with faster tempos ("Under the Hedge", especially), a bit of jamming, a little extra chunky guitar, etc. They're nice diversions to stay fresh and nothing veers far from the source. Now, it should be noted that the sequencing matched the CD but not the LP that switches "Timorous Me" and "Stove By a Whale." The former is a fan favorite that's trademarked live by a chunky guitar sound and spontaneous clapping. As always, it was a highlight. But its end also began a puzzling exodus. Nevertheless, Leo and company powered through the back half of Tyranny with few errors (a little rusty on "Squeaky Fingers"?) and gobs of vigor. By the time they left the stage (only to return for one more), curfew was nearing, but the lighter crowd was still all in. It seems the question of whether an album played in full live adds or detracts from a performance is ultimately voided when it's done so well. Would anyone have expected anything less from one of the hardest-working guys in indie-rock? Doubtful.

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Marty Key on bass (photos by Kirstie Shanley)

 
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Seitz / July 28, 2011 2:24 PM

The Fireside show was pretty epic, and extremely loud and fast. It's the most "punk" I've ever seen them. And there wasn't really a ton of banter for a TL/Rx show. Lots of music, though. At least 20 songs.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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