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Ted Leo + Pharmacists – Concert Review

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Ted Leo + Pharmacists
Galaxy Theater, Santa Ana, CA
2/18/05

It was a dark and stormy night, unusual for Orange County, even during the winter. The recent, sporadically torrential, rainstorms had had a daunting effect on the locals. Most stayed home, safe from the elements, tuned to the local channels for the latest installment of StormWatch 2005 to see intrepid reporters near the latest washed-out road or mud-damaged structure inform viewers what city would be next be bestowed with warnings of floods and tornados.

The unusual weather resulted in a smaller-than-usual crowd for the Galaxy Theater on a Friday. My friend and I walked in at about 9:45pm, which is 20 minutes after the time people show up who are trying to look cool by being fashionably late. Some unknown band flailed away on stage to the delight of one of the band member’s parents who didn’t have to deal with that racket coming out of the garage. By 10pm-ish when Leo took the stage, the dance floor was only half-full and scattered throughout there were maybe three or four Leo t-shirts.

The first thing you initially notice when seeing the Pharmacists appear on stage is how hairy they are. The drummer has a bushy, unkempt beard. The bassist’s entire face was covered with curly locks and a wooly beard. You could only see a small patch of skin where his eyes peered out, making him resemble an Ewok.

I appreciate the sincerity with which they played, but the songs and performance this evening were just average. Each song would start off with promise by sounding musically interesting, but would quickly devolve into a very routine pop song. The lyrics were straightforward and at times hard to make out through the speakers. The songs seemed to be aimed at the emotional level of someone in their twenties, which was the core age of the audience, a fact that seemed to affect Ted.

He had an air of hostility and condescension as he addressed the crowd, as if he was angry that at his age and with his music, he was playing to such a small room of people who didn’t understand him. The crowd didn’t get his jokes, like the time he told them “we haven’t played this next song in a while, ‘so sue me if I go astray.'” As I looked around no one but my friend and I seemed to get the reference to Prince’s 1999, but to be fair most of the audience were toddlers when that song came out.

The crowd also had its share of young men discovering the loss of inhibitions to legally bought alcohol and whatever they quickly injested in the car. They thrashed around yelling at the wrong times, excited more by being wasted than being at a concert, which has to be frustrating for a performer.

The best part of the evening was the drummer whose playing was fantastic but overpowering. I am a big fan of percussion, but he was too much for each song. He was supposed to back-up Ted, but his drumming dominated, not fitting the context of the songs or the band. I wouldn’t be surprised if he moved on to bigger and better things and is something I would recommend since I couldn’t find the man’s name on the band’s website.

While this performance wasn’t that good I don’t think it was a representative performance of the band. I know Ted can sound better. I heard songs from his latest release at his website that I enjoyed. Also, you can see him perform three acoustic numbers at Underground Online and they are all vast improvements over everything I saw him play live. I would give him another chance for the right price and if another band I wanted to see was on the bill.

His current tour schedule is as follows

Tuesday – 3/15/2005
Magnet Berlin, Germany

Wednesday – 3/16/2005
Hellmut Saarbruecken, Germany

Thursday – 3/17/2005
Underground Koln, Germany

Friday – 3/18/2005
Komm Nuernberg, Germany

Saturday – 3/19/2005
007 Club Prague, Czech Republic
www.klub007STRAHOV.cz

Sunday – 3/20/2005
Arcadium Graz, Austria

Monday – 3/21/2005
Arena Vienna, Austria

Wednesday – 3/23/2005
La Madeleine Cafe Genova, Italy

Thursday – 3/24/2005
Atlantide Bologna, Italy

Friday – 3/25/2005
The Cage Livorno, Italy

Saturday – 3/26/2005
Leoncavallo Milano, Italy
With: Settlefish

Sunday – 3/27/2005
Bar 3 Paris, France

Monday – 3/28/2005
Paradiso Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tuesday – 3/29/2005
Ekko Utrecht, Netherlands
With: Voicest; www.ekko.nl

Wednesday – 3/30/2005
Vera Groningen, Netherlands
www.vera-groningen.nl

Thursday – 3/31/2005
Rotown Rotterdam, Netherlands
www.rotown.nl

Friday – 4/1/2005
Lintfabriek Kontrich, Belgium
www.lintfabriek.be

Saturday – 4/2/2005 Engine Down
Kulturfabrik Esch-Alzette, Luxembourg
With: Ted Leo/Pharmacists, Engine Down; Out of the Crowd festival www.kulturfabrik.lu

Friday – 4/22/2005
Wellesley College Mollys Pub Wellesley, Massachusetts
With: Mittens; 8PM; $7; all ages

Saturday – 4/23/2005
Syracuse University Schine Underground Syracuse, New York
7:15PM; $10; 18+

Wednesday – 5/11/2005
Fitchburg State College Campus Quad Fitchburg, Massachusetts
With: Battle of the Bands Champ; 3PM; FREE; all ages

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS