Ted Leo and the Pharmacists have been keeping a low profile since releasing The Brutalist Bricks in 2010. Founder, frontman, and primary songwriter Ted Leo faced some tough times personally and professionally, but managed to keep in touch with fans through a collaboration with Aimee Mann in 2014 on a project they dubbed “The Both,” that included an album and some tour dates. Then last year, Leo announced a Kickstarter to fund the recording and release of a new album. Uncertain of how the public would respond, Leo was overwhelmed to learn that he had hit his funding goal within a single day. It’s safe to say his loyal fanbase was eager for new music! And now, this past September, Leo has released the fruits of his labor (and Kickstarter funding), the new album, The Hanged Man. The album, recorded primarily at his home in Rhode Island, has been receiving positive reviews. Despite the solo recording and billing of The Hanged Man, Ted Leo has gotten the band back together and hit the tour trail to bring the new material, and some classic Ted Leo and the Pharmacists songs, to the masses. We were thrilled to welcome Ted back Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro NC.
Tasked with opening the evening on a Tuesday night at the Cradle was local Chapel Hill outfit The Stars Explode, the current project of ex-Gladhands co-founder, Doug Edmunds. Buoyed by a receptive hometown crowd, Edmunds and his bandmates won over the room with an absolutely infectious mix of loud and melodic guitars driving some seriously hook-heavy indie rock and power pop. Their set included some material from new album, Too late To Save the World, and based on what we heard, we can’t wait to check it out when it drops in November.
Holding down the Jan Brady, middle child, spot on the line-up and leading into Ted Leo fell to IAN SWEET. The trio, which evolved from the solo work of Jilian Medford, played a set of indie pop songs that ranged from driving to dreamy. Their sound was somewhat reminiscent of 90’s British dream poppers the Sundays. Much like The Sundays’ singer Harriet Wheeler, Medford, who has a classically-trained vocal degree from Berklee, delivered her lyrics in a voice that was soft but contained a level of steeliness lying just below the surface. Despite Jilian Medford’s self-deprecating comments that the audience might not be listening, IAN SWEET definitely made an impression as they played songs pulled from last fall’s full length debut Shapeshifter.
With the audience primed and ready, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists took the stage and kicked off with “Moon Out of Phase,” the opening track from the new album, The Hanged Man. They continued with “The Sons of Cain,” from Living with the Living, “Mourning in America” from The Brutalist Bricks and the band’s wildly popular crowd favorite “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?” The opening salvo of songs immediately set the mood and pace of the show with a solid mix of new material and crowd favorites, and the die-hard fans were eating it up as they cheered and called out to Ted Leo and the band. Leo was in good spirits, often chatting with the crowd and humorously bantering back and forth with some excited fans at the front of the stage. The band, consisting of James Canty on guitar and keyboards, Ralph Darden on guitar, Marty Key on bass, Adrienne Berry on saxophone, and Chris Wilson behind the drum kit, provided a solid and full soundscape. They filled out songs like “The Angels Share,” “Anthems of None,” and “You’re like me,” before leaving Leo alone at center stage for a brief solo interlude. Alone on stage, Ted played stark and emotional versions of “Lonsdale Avenue” and “Me And Mia,” before making his way to the piano for “Nazarene,” where he was accompanied by James Canty on guitar as the rest of the band cycled back in to end the song.
Like many today who find it hard to ignore the current political climate, Leo also expressed his concern with the current administration. Without becoming overtly political or preachy, he segued into “William Weld in the 21st Century,” a song directed at the former Massachusetts governor and Libertarian vice presidential candidate. He closed out the set with “Biomusicology,” and left the room howling for more. The band dutifully returned for an encore that included “Bottled in Cork,” and “Timorous Me,” ultimately sending the crowd out into the night absolutely thrilled.
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists + Ian Sweet + The Stars Explode @ Cat’s Cradle – October 24th 2017