Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
"We'll see how fuckin' tough you are when karaoke comes out next," Leo said to the crowd. (One would hope most of the crowd was there to see the D.C. punk-pop bashers, and not for the impending karaoke night.) It was an "early show," but the gang didn't let the indignity of being followed by a bunch of drunks belting out "Summer Love" get to them. After asking to let the house music -- Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" -- play out, Leo and his aforementioned Pharmacists ripped into a set loaded with falsetto yelps, driving, catchy riffs and tunes from their decade-plus of output.
Touring in support of their latest release "The Brutalist Bricks," their first on the revered Matador label, they saved the album's strongest -- and again, catchiest -- number, "Bottled in Cork," for close to the end. Leo stood stage right, bouncing around buoyantly and nearly slamming his teeth into the mic each time he came back for the verse. The first several numbers were from the newest release, including "The Mighty Sparrow" and "Mourning in America."
"This one's for the fine lads in So Cow," he said before ripping into "Where Have All the Rudeboys Gone?" from 2003's Hearts of Oak.
He didn't mean that in the literal sense. So Cow, a three-piece rockin' outfit from Ireland, were a personable bunch of chaps. Front man Brian Kelly was also at home schmoozing from the stage when not delivering quick-witted lyrics and exciting guitar parts. The boys did an admirable job of nearly matching the Pharmacists' considerable energy level.
Leo not only believes in chatting with his audience, he also is one for direct fan democracy. At one point he "got excited and jumped the gun." Not sure if he should start the song over or take it from the first verse, he appealed to the crowd. Taking their cue, the tune started from the top. Later, Leo announced they had a song on deck, and another after that. Would the crowd like them in order or reversed? he asked. The answer was reversed, and thus the superb "The High Party" and "Even Heroes Have to Die" switched places in the set.
Bassist Marty Key made time before the show to do some shopping in downtown Lawrence, sporting a "punk 'til you puke" button he picked up at the Antique Mall on his guitar strap. Leo evidently knows a bit about punks, and puking. He introduced "Bottle of Buckie" by asking if anyone was familiar with the titular wine that was "made by monks, drunk by punks."
Guitarist James Canty may not have made any finds in the mall, but he did find his way around the stage, coming precariously close to stepping off the side while jumping about. He also found his way to the keyboard on a few numbers. Chris Wilson held the beat down (and also holds ownership of one hell of a beard).
The crew finished up with "Gimme the Wire" before stepping off stage. Just a few minutes later, they were back with a song they claimed to have learned at the Granada the previous day. Leo belted out "I Love My Label" in his falsetto delivery, and closed it out with a couple of inspired jams.
Anyone brave enough to take the stage and sing karaoke after that has a set of brass balls.
The Mighty Sparrow
The One Who Got Us Out
Mourning in America
Where Have all the Rude Boys Gone?
I'm a Ghost
The High Party
Even Heroes Have to Die
The Angels' Share
One Polaroid a Day
Bottle of Buckie
Bottled in Cork
Shake the Sheets
Gimme the Wire
The set list I scored didn't include encore songs. I call the first one "I Love My Label." What're the rest, guys?