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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Live Review: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists @ 40 Watt

ted leo

From the moment he walked on stage until the moment he left – nearly two hours and two encores later – Ted Leo was a man having fun and at comfort with his surroundings. "The 40 Watt is one of the best places we play," he said midway through the main set. "They make us feel so welcome."

Leo and his Pharmacists braced the 40 Watt stage Thursday with a constant barrage of all things rock (indie, punk, traditional), playing new and old songs and delighting the crowd of a couple hundred. The last time he was in Athens, laryngitis cut his show short, as he opened the set imploring people to sing along if they knew the words. His voice was no issue this time, and the longer set more than made up for the troubles of the previous gig.

He opened with Little Dawn, its constant arpeggio gearing up the crowd for a bouncy night. He took selections from Hearts of Oak ("The High Party", "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?"), Shake the Sheets ("Me and Mia," "Bleeding Powers"), and Living with the Living ("Colleen," "Who Do You Love"), throwing in a half-dozen new songs (including an impressive "Where Was my Brain?") for a soon-to-be-released album on the heels of 2007's Living.

Having fun bantering with the crowd (at one point near the start of the first encore, someone yelled "one more set" causing Leo to comment he's not heard that one before), Leo packs so much punch in every show because when he plays, you can feel he really means it. Every song is a crusade, and all the better when the crowd buys in (like it did Thursday). After each song he yelped a "Thanks" to the clapping crowd, then attacked the next song with vim and vigor.

One of the night's top moments was the start of the first encore when he came out solo and covered Nick Lowe's "So it Goes". He turned his back to the audience just before playing to make sure he remembered the chords, nodded, then turned around and started to play. It was as if he was in his living room, playing songs and having beer with friends.

As it turns out, he was.

- Ed Morales

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