Monday, June 28th, 2010
The Brutalist Bricks
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists and Screaming Females at Lee’s Palace in Toronto
Frank YangUnderstatement? This has been a very fucked weekend in Toronto. From the moment it was announced late last year that downtown Toronto would host the G20 summit of world leaders this last weekend in June, it has been an inevitability that things would turn out this way – an overwhelming police presence on city streets to greet masses of protesters and demonstrators who acted as camouflage for small groups of so-called anarchists set on turning things violent and wreaking mayhem – all while the world leaders met behind massive fences, oblivious to the tumult outside, and ultimately accomplishing nothing besides agreeing to maybe talk further about the same issues the next time they got together. In other words, the exact same script that has played out at every one of these summits over the last ten years, and with people feigning surprise and outrage whenever any of the above occurs (although the complete lack of leadership and accountability from every level of government and authority this weekend felt new – maybe the Toronto summit decided to allow some ad-libbing?).
Though out of town most of Saturday, I returned to find my neighbourhood had become a mess of smashed glass and boarded-up windows and though the flash points had moved elsewhere, the atmosphere was still extremely tense and discomfiting. Though staying home with the blinds drawn also seemed like a good course of action, a better option was available in heading out to Lee’s Palace where Ted Leo & The Pharmacists had the fortunate timing of playing that night. Or maybe unfortunate, considering that transit shutdowns and road closures made getting around the city difficult and the general advice seemed to be to stay home. Either way, the show was still on and while I might have otherwise liked a distraction from from everything going on in my city, I was curious to hear what Leo had to say. And get rocked.
There wasn’t a need to wait for the headliner for that, though, thanks to tourmates Screaming Females. Their name was a bit of a misnomer as of the trio, only frontwoman Marissa Paternoster was lacking a Y-chromosome but they made up for that bit of false advertising by delivering on the screaming part. Not literally, as in lung-shredding hollers though there was a bit of that, but their combination of classic rock riffage and new wave stutter was pretty impressive and Paternoster’s intensely awkward stage presence kind of entertaining. Their audience wasn’t especially sizeable, but it was appreciative.
“I know this is kind of a weird night”, Ted Leo said a little into their set, “but hopefully we can offer some catharsis”. This was as much comment on world politics as he offered at first, though he was more than willing to get into the state of the World Cup (sorry to see USA go but was fully behind Ghana). Instead, he let his set list do the talking – I don’t know what other cities had been getting, but for Toronto on this most particular of evenings, he and the Pharmacists delivered rocker after rocker, piledriving the fastest numbers and speeding up the others to terminal velocity, all delivered as such a punishing volume that Leo’s vocals were occasionally inaudible under the din. While he’s been touring as a four-piece for some time – they were still a power trio when I first started seeing them – this year’s Brutalist Bricks was the first written and recorded as such, and the new material which comprised the lion’s share of the set really benefitted from the extra complexity and power of James Canty’s second guitar. From the word go, there was no let up in the show’s energy save for when Leo stopped to converse with the crowd a bit, which had filled up nicely though not nearly to capacity, and crack a joke or two.
It was during one of these breaks later on that he finally said he felt obliged to comment on the G20 happenings, and after a bit of back and forth with a patron who wanted more rock, less talk, he basically left it by saying that every one of the songs he would play this night was written in the past ten years and under the shadow of corporate globalization. And that’s probably all that needed to be said; anyone who’s listened to his music, which I think would be everyone there, would know where his ideology lies and implicitly what his stance would be on summits like this and the protests that’d ensue. I’m not sure what I had expected. Maybe some sort of explanation or rationale for what was happening in my city or why it was necessary – and to his credit Leo offered as such but warned it would take “like nine hours” – but that’s unfair. This wasn’t a lecture hall but a rock show – and not a Billy Bragg rock show – and on that count, Leo had more than delivered what was expected. An excuse to pogo during “Me & Mia”, a stellar solo cover of Nick Lowe’s “So It Goes”, a glorious “Timourous Me” and – after handing over his guitar to Canty who broke a string on his – closed the show out with a bloodletting (literally) “Ballad Of The Sin Eater”. Ted Leo has never put on a bad show, but this one reached a new level of intensity and yes, as promised, catharsis that I thank him for and hope is never necessary again.
Photos: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Screaming Females @ Lee’s Palace – June 26, 2010
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Bottled In Cork”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “The Mighty Sparrow”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Even Heroes Have To Die”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Bomb Repeat Bomb (1954)”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “The Sons Of Cain”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Me & Mia”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Squeaky Fingers”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Under The Hedge”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Come Baby Come”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Under The Hedge” (Treble In Trouble)
MP3: Screaming Females – “Arm Over Arm”
MP3: Screaming Females – “I Do”
Video: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “The Mighty Sparrow”
Video: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Colleen”
Video: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.”
Video: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Me & Mia”
Video: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?”
Video: Screaming Females – “Buried In The Nude”
Video: Screaming Females – “Bell”
Video: Screaming Females – “Boyfriend”
Video: Screaming Females – “Electric Pilgrim”
MySpace: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
MySpace: Screaming Females
And if this past weekend has utterly drained you as well, stock up on some good karma by chipping in and helping this puppy frolic again.