photo via Flickr
While watching Ted Leo and the Pharmacists Sunday night, I realized that it might have been the first time I'd ever seen a headlining act treat an encore more or less as it was originally intended. At this point, the art of the encore is a ridiculous notion. It's no longer a demand of the audience wanting more, but rather artists tailor setlists as to hold off the signature tracks specifically for the encore. So it was interesting to see Leo come out for the encore and actually take a few minutes to think about what to play. (He eventually on solo covers of Eddie and the Hot Rods and The Waterboys before bringing the band back out.) At this point, encores are automatic. We all know they're going to happen, so it's nice to see at least some attempt at spontanaity.
But the encore selections weren't the only admirable attempts at ad-libbing last night. Leo preceded "Bottle of Buckie" with a story that at certain points involved being creeped out by "Greased Lighting" at age 10, and watching "Hoffa" with a girlfriends' parents - a circumstance which allows a heightened awareness of every f-bomb on screen. While rolling through a mid-set flurry of new songs, a broken bass drum was replaced while Leo did his best impression of a jam band to kill time. Faulty equipment aside, the band was outstanding. The new songs have me eagerly anticipating his Matador debut, and Lincoln Hall sounded great for a new venue still working out the kinks in sound mixes.
"Me and Mia" is a track that is so catchy on the surface that it's easy to overlook what the lyrics are actually referring to. Based on years spent around a diagnosed anorexic, I can attest that Leo's depiction of the details are eerily exact. Lack of body heat, sunken eyes, spinal prominence on the back. Not to mention the "me against the world" mentality that tends to develop in those afflicted, when an infinite number of verbal battles with those trying to help usually only cause the victim to further worsen their condition. The final lines offer a thought-provoking parallel about those using hunger strikes to fight for an actual cause vs. those using a similar method for less valid, more personal reasons. It would seem that Leo has likely fought the battle himself, and the video at least offers a happy ending that gives some sense of hope in winning the war.