If there is a guy that has paid his indie rock dues more than Ted Leo, I would like to see him. Ted has been around for a l-o-n-g time, put out a bunch of solid albums, toured the country over and over, and remains just under the radar of big-time musical success. It must be a bit of bummer for him. But you would never know it from a recent night at Boot & Saddle in South Philly. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists blew that place up with a fantastic and rollicking live show.
The Boot is an interesting place. I’ve now been there a bunch of times, and I think I like it. I’ve gotten great parking spots the last few times, which always makes the night more fun, and I think that the staff there are generally friendly and decent. The music venue is small, holding maybe 200 for a sold out show. Think of a standard two-car garage and then double it in length. Add some cheap ass faux-tin ceiling tiles on the walls, a tiny stage about 2 feet high, and a “how do I get out of here in case of fire” lack of exits, and you’ve got the Boot in a nutshell. It has decent acoustics, too.
Because the stage is low, and I like to see the band, I make it a point to get there early. That way, I can grab a spot against the wall (my knees are old, man!) to lean on, and be close to the stage so that I can score you some great photos. Knowing that TL was going to sell out quickly, and the place would be packed, we got a great spot. Don't believe me? Check out the pics! Who loves you?
I can’t remember the opening act much. They had a female lead singer and seemed in need of more time in rehearsals, but they rocked, too. It’s probably not a good career omen that my recollection of them is this dim. But they got off the stage after ½ hour, and thankfully, we didn’t have to suffer through another opener before the main event.
Sometimes, Ted doesn’t bring along the full band. I always think that’s a mistake even if it is economical and logistically superior for the artist. On this night, TL had the full Pharmacists behind him. That meant two full-time guitars (and the dude on the keys played guitar for about ½ the tunes), a bass, a great drummer, and a sax. That’s a lot of people on that little B&S stage, but it worked. And with all those people and all that gear, the sound was forceful and vibrant.
Ryan was telling me that when he was in college, a TL CD was left in a car used by him and his roommates. People would use the wheels and come back humming TL. Yeah, those songs are catchy. And when played live with a terrific group of musicians like the Pharmacists, it’s great. The only thing that could hold back the show was song selection, but TL played a number of his best tunes, and the crowd was just loving it. It was a show that restored your faith in all that is great and powerful about live rock ‘n’ roll played with passion. And if you use your Spotify account and do the "This is Ted Leo and the Pharmacists" playlist, you'll hear the lengthy hit list that makes TL an indie-icon.
Of course, Ted had to preach a little about how liberal everyone should be. Yeah, yeah, just play music buddy. No one really cares about your politics, and if you have something to say, put it to a punchy tune with 3 guitars and lyrics I can’t understand, and we’ll all go away happy. You can never trust these Notre Dame grads to keep their mouths closed, but (a) at least he didn’t talk about Irish football, and (b) remarkably, he didn’t tell us how great it is to be a vegan.
I got some splendid pictures that captured the essence of the live show. Despite the small stage, there was movement, interaction and stage presence that made the show really terrific. It’s hard to do justice to real life, but I think these pictures are, as a collection, some of the best I’ve posted in a while as they captured a lot of the human action that took place that night. I hope you agree.
I’ve got 4 more shows to get to and times a-wastin’. Next up is Jimmie Vaughan and the Tilt-A-Whirl Band at the Ardmore Music Hall, then it’s back to the Boot for the Gotobeds. After that, one of rock’s all-time legends in a massive football stadium, and then to Union Transfer for a sweet and emotional sendoff to a Philly band that deserved much more prominence than they ever received. Are you ready for all that? I sure as heck hope so. Because there is much more in the hopper! Strap in, sit back and enjoy your flight through BRP’s summer of rock. See you on the flip side, friends. And thanks for reading and visiting – you always have a home here at BRP.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.