Firmly ensconced in spring, a perfect size crowd filled the floor at Off Broadway to see Ted Leo make good after canceling the show originally scheduled for February. Taking the stage just after 10:20 p.m., Leo began by thanking the mostly 20-and-30-something crowd for coming out on Mother’s Day and chiding that the audience must "hate their mothers." Thus began the stage banter that would continue throughout the evening. Leo continued explaining he had to reschedule this tour from its original dates due to a family emergency and the rough winter weather. Giving no other details, he admitted that the blizzard in early February would have cancelled the shows in St. Louis and Chicago even without the family commitments. After a few minutes he had to ask how long he had talked to this point (a few minutes) and apologized before finally getting to the music.
Keeping the night simple, the sparse stage held Leo’s only tools for the evening, a microphone for his voice, his hollow body Gibson guitar and a Music Man combo amplifier. Clearly not one to disappoint, Leo played a set of 20 songs mixing originals from across the entire Ted Leo and the Pharmacists catalog with a few covers. He set a blistering pace finishing the set in just over an hour. Leo’s wit shone through as he jabbed with the crowd between songs. After thanking opening acts the Blind Eyes and Title Tracks, he lamented he didn’t have the rest of his band with him for such a good show.
Halfway through the set, Leo’s biting wit came to forefront as he started by saying "to quote the guru of all stage banter, Paul Stanley…" before chastising the famed classic rock band, telling the crowd there is no such drink as "cold gin." Leo then launched into his version of the Nick Lowe classic "So It Goes." Later, he ripped a photographer standing directly in front of him for taking too many pictures. Finally, Leo apologized to the audience for running his mouth, yet the crowd clapped and some shouted they wanted more banter. Leo exclaimed, "Wow! That's a first!" He continued, "An already great show just went to another level."
The joking about Kiss continued throughout the rest of the set finally eliciting the crowd to call out for Leo to play the song. He joked, "I didn't even like Kiss until about 3 years ago. I have decided to let pleasure into my life." Next, he mixed in what he called a "newish" song titled, "Little Smug Supper Club." Shortly thereafter, a contender for highlight of the show happened as he eschewed the microphone and his electric guitar for an acoustic guitar singing "Bottled Up in Cork," from last year’s The Brutalist Bricks as the crowd sang along to the apropos line, "I’ll tell the bartender, I think I’m falling in love."
When the crowd started shouting for songs from Leo’s catalog near the end of the set, Leo jabbed that he actually tried to sit down to write a set list for the show and admitted there were still a couple of songs he wanted to play. Someone yelled "SET LIST" and Leo laughed and soldiered on to play a cover of "Fisherman's Blues" by the Waterboys and then a cover of '70s-era English punk rock scenesters Eddie and the Hot Rods' top 10 U.K. hit, "Do Anything You Wanna Do," a song Leo stated he, "admired in his formative years." Finally, Leo ended the main set with "You Could Die (or This Might End)."
The crowd, excited for more, gave enough applause that he did not even try to leave the stage; he just launched into an encore. Leaving the guitar where it lay Leo took, from the look in his eyes, to be a leap and sang a beautiful a capella version of an Irish folk song, "The Flower of Strabane."
A perfect local edition to the bill, St. Louis trio the Blind Eyes played just prior to Leo showcasing its Midwestern brand of power pop. Singer/guitarist, Seth Porter, admitted the band was "very excited" to be opening for Leo. Playing a mix of their first album Modernity with songs from their soon to be released new album With A Bang, the band kept the kinetic energy of the evening high in front of the appreciative hometown crowd. Porter later admitted that the band had played Off Broadway for first time three years ago on Mother's Day to about five people. He said, "It’s much nicer playing to all of you."
Off Broadway added opening band Title Tracks, a tight power pop/punk band from Washington, D.C., to the bill about a month ago. The group is currently out promoting their sophomore album In Blank (Ernest Jenning Record Co., 2011) just released last month. John Davis, the former drummer of Q and Not U and former member of Georgie James (with Laura Burhenn of the Mynabirds), began his new project, Title Tracks, three years ago and serves as songwriter, singer and guitarist. Rounding out the band is Michael Cotterman, formerly of Kid Dynamite, playing bass with his former band mate from the Loved Ones, Mike Sneeringer, on drums.
Davis writes upbeat two-three minute pop songs with strumming power chords while adding his take on his own friendships and relationships as basis. Cotterman adds punchy, melodic bass lines with Sneeringer adding superb fills with a hard hitting drumming style giving the trio a tight punk/pop sound. The live sound, fueled by a natural adrenaline rush, features more of a punk element than their recorded work. The band tore through nine songs in roughly 30 minutes setting the bar high for the rest of the evening to come. As a special treat, Title Tracks ended their set with Ted Leo on lead vocals playing an inspired cover of "Swann Street" by Three, an '80s D.C. band on the Dischord label.
Title Tracks Setlist:
Turn Your Face
Piles of Paper
Every Little Bit Hurts
Clench Your Fist (A Little Closer To Me)
Telepathic Love (The Wipers)
Swann Street - w/ Ted Leo (Three)
Ted Leo Setlist
Me and Mia
The Sword in the Stone
Bleeding Powers / Angelfuck (The Misfits)
The "Nice People" Argument
Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone
So It Goes (Nick Lowe)
Under the Hedge
A Bottle of Buckie
The High Party
The Gold Finch and the Red Oak Tree
Little Smug Supper Club
One Polaroid a Day
Bottled In Cork
Fisherman's Blues (The Waterboys)
Do Anything You Wanna Do (Eddie and the Hot Rods)
You Could Die (or This Might End)
Flower of Sweet Strabane (Traditional)