but when you can’t afford a broken nose, how can you afford to fight?

I got to the concert early.

I get to every concert early. Doors open at 8:00, the ticket says, and like a chump I’m there at 8:30. Of late I’ve grown better at avoiding such foolishness, sitting patiently at home with an improving book until two hours after the printed time. But promoters have changed their game to accommodate me, the crafty rogues, so I still end up sitting through half an hour of some opening act from Jersey called The Mackerlain or Sixpenny Strikers or Chisholm Face or something like that.

The first act (of three) was still on when I slipped into the basement at the Middle East. So I found an open seat at one of the corner bars, ordered a domestic beer, and watched the Kimbo Slice / Houston Alexander UFC fight. Alexander embarrassed himself, dancing in a perpetual circle away from Slice’s reach for the entire first round. I sneered, urging a man three time zones away to close ranks, put himself within arm’s reach of a brawler, and risk permanent injury in order to inflict some himself. Kind of unsettling, when you think about it. How dare you defend yourself sensibly? Drop your guard! Charge the son-of-a-bitch! GYAAARRGH!

But I won’t pretend to be above it. I want blood, and thankfully mixed martial artists provide. We should be glad the UFC exists to give these men an outlet for their aggressions, lest they take up arms and become provincial warlords.

Ted Leo, by way of comparison, is a perfect gentleman.

A lot of acts hide backstage during set changes, letting the roadies do the tuning and the sound check, and save themselves for the big reveal. But Ted was out there plugging in guitars and thumping mics with the best of them. The audience cheered when he first came out; he gave a friendly wave, then went to work. And they cheered again when he came on, officially, and opened up with “Heart Problems.”

And after every song, he said, “Thanks.”

Ted doesn’t sacrifice any of the energy in his songs by being friendly and accessible. You can still hear the anger in his lyrics – not a bitter disillusionment, but a perpetual encouragement to look past the illusion and keep moving.

After listening all morning, as I drove down 95
To a story of detainees who were barely kept alive
I could deal with trying to process pigeons acting like their doves
But not with interference from the power lines above

I describe Ted Leo to friends as an edgier Elvis Costello: swap out the mod for punk and put him in flannel. But his songwriting combines that same subversive genius with upbeat, catchy riffs. He put that cleverness to work in a few new songs (though he didn’t announce a date or title on a new album).

And he closed on a crowd favorite. Because he’s a nice guy.

But I’m here (but I’m here!), and you’re here, and it’s true
There’s a whole lot of walking to do
And you’re cool (and you’re cool!), and I’m cool, and it’s true
There’s a whole lot of walking to do
There’s no fuss (there’s no fuss!), and I trust, I trust you!
There’s a whole lot of walking to do
And you’re strong (and you’re strong!), and I can be too
There’s a whole lot of walking to do

(Better pics coming later)

2 Responses

  1. see? you get to shows early, i leave buying tickets til it’s too late and the damn shows are sold out.

    i’d say that makes us even.

  2. [...] see three shows in three consecutive months: Psychedelic Furs in October, Girl Talk in November and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists in December. The monthly spacing hadn’t been deliberate; it was just one of those [...]

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