Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ted Leo concert review: Riverside, CA

Ted Leo
The Barn, University of California Riverside
Feb. 23, 2011

Local Ted Leo fans got a rare treat on Wednesday night when the acclaimed indie rocker appeared at UCR as part of his first West Coast solo tour in nearly eight years. Performing to a small crowd inside venerable campus performance venue/eatery The Barn, he delivered a rousing 19-song, 75-minute set.

It was a testament to the thought-provoking, often politically-tinged music the New Jersey native and current NYC resident has made for the past decade with longtime band, The Pharmacists (The Brutalist Bricks, which came out last year on Matador/Ole Records, is another solid effort).

Armed with an electric guitar and mostly singing with eyes closed, Leo basically let the music speak for itself. There were traces of early Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello and Billy Bragg, while I thought an old Midnight Oil song (“The Power and the Passion”) described him to a T.  

Among the standouts were “Me and Mia,” “Colleen,” “A Bottle of Buckie” (featuring some whistling and highly melodic guitar work; it got a very enthusiastic response), “One Polaroid a Day” (sung in regular voice, not the lower register heard on Bricks), “Bottled in Cork” and closing frenzy “Ballad of the Sin Eater.”

There were also inspired takes on The Waterboys’ “Fisherman Blues” (a regular inclusion in recent Pharmacists’ sets; Leo even nailed Mike Scott’s ragged howl), Nick Lowe’s jaunty “And So It Goes,” Aimee Mann’s sublime “Freeway” (something he just decided to attempt) and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” Despite declining a few audience requests, Leo relented on the latter tune, giving it a lean and mean treatment.
Photos courtesy of Matador Records    

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