Friday, March 26th, 2004
Hearts Of Oak
Rock, thy name is Ted Leo.
It was going to take something pretty fierce to keep me awake last night, and New Jersey’s favorite son (who is not named Bruce or Bon.. Jovi…) was able to get me worked up enough that I was again up till 2:30 AM and am now even more tired than I was a day ago, which is saying something. But enough about me.
First openers The Black Maria did nothing for me except prompt me to wonder, “is this that emo music the kids are going on about these days”? Overwrought vocal histrionics, heavy chugging guitars, blah blah blah. Billy Talent called – they want their snotty vocal affectations back. Gentlemen, your invitation to Edgefest is in the mail. Moving on.
Electrelane are a four-piece outfit from Brighton, England who were primarily an instrumental band but with their second album Power Out, have been writing more vocal pieces. Based on last night’s performance, their instrumentals are better. At their best, they had very cool Stereolab/Velvets/Krautrock thing going on with some interesting arrangements and dynamics, but when they brought in the vocals, they seemed to tense up and fall back on much simpler structures that ended up sounding unfinished and the vocals themselves weren’t very strong – think Nico (or think of what Nico sounds like to someone who doesn’t think Nico is much of a singer). They were at their best when they were more relaxed and just jamming songs out. But hey, it was their first time in Canada – maybe they were just nervous. We do that to people.
And then there was Ted. It was good to see that he had drawn a crowd exponentially larger than the one that showed up at the Rivoli last Spring (a show I wasn’t at, just to be clear). He has to be the hardest-sweating man in indie rock, because it wasn’t three numbers in before he was already drenched. Touring short a Pharmacist as a three-piece, Ted took full advantage of the extra stage space to rock out and proving he deserves his reputation as an amazing live performer. Playing material from Hearts Of Oak and Tyranny Of Distance as well as some new material, Leo was chatty and engaging and just seemed to be overjoyed at playing his music for the audience. I’m having trouble coming up with any descriptives that don’t overuse the adjective ‘rock’, so I’m not going to try. But yes, Ted Leo = rock. Only disappointment was that they were sold out of pins and t-shirts (the merch booth was being manned by Ted’s brother Chris Leo, formerly of The Lapse and The Van Pelt, who is apparently looking for a drummer and is willing to move to Canada…?) I had also thought that the Leo/Springsteen comparisons would extend beyond their Jersey roots and mean a 3-hour show, but a good hour-and-change at his intensity level was still plenty. In a word? Fantastic.
I’ve complained in the past that the Horseshoe relies on red stage lights almost exclusively, making it difficult to take photos that aren’t oversaturated with the one hue. Well it turns out they also have blue ones which are even worse for pics. The ones I took with the flash turned out well though – I don’t think it was possible to take a bad picture of Ted’s performance.
For more information about Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, visit your local library. Or read this profile in yesterday’s Globe & Mail.
Noam Chomsky has a blog. Who knew.
np – Sarah Harmer / All Of Our Names