Report: Ted Leo at Noise Pop 2011

 

 

BY DAVID DOWNS

 

An arctic blast of wind, rain and cold descended on San Francisco Thursday
night, but inside the packed Bottom of the Hill club, down in front, at Ted
Leo’s second solo show this year – the vibe was warmly defiant.

 

Damn the brutal conditions outside, the New Yorker played
over an hour-long set of songs from his huge back catalog, marking another
intimate highlight from Noise Pop 2011, the 19 year-old week-long indie music
festival featuring about 100 bands at around 20 venues, including Death Cab’s
Ben Gibbard, Yo La Tengo, No Age and Wavves.

 

Called a “goddamn national treasure” by Noise Pop writer Kevin Seal, the New
Jersey native has been in the game for 25 years, morphing from punk rocker to
indie rock to his current, stripped down and plugged in act – featuring just
him, a mic, his guitar and amp.

 

He’s sort of adrift in 2011, he says, and looking to
reconnect. So he’s struck out without his backing band The Pharmacists for one
of his longest solo stints ever
. Whip smart and powder dry, Leo kept his rock
talk terse late Thursday night and focused on song after song of amped up
singer-songwriter storytelling – a less emo Elliot Smith. Reflecting on his
career crossroads, Leo said simply, “Honestly, there are very few things I’d do
differently.”

 

Tracks like “Bleeding Powers”, and “Six Months in a Leaky
Boat” came out forceful, confident and raw. The forty-year-old’s voice was both
thin and tight from winter travel and a cold – yet another reason why bands
tour in the Summer. He said he might lose his voice Thursday, screwing his Seattle audience out of a
show.

 

“Don’t worry, I’ll leave it gasping and bloody on stage. Seattle can deal with the
aftermath,” he said. Then later, “Don’t tell Seattle I said that.”

 

Cue: “Bottled in Cork”,
“Colleen”, “The High Party Lyrics, “The Gold Finch and the Red Oak Tree” and
numerous others. The crowd of Leo die-hards – some grizzled and bearded, others
still in braces – lapped it all up.

 

He concluded with a thank you to his opener Kevin Seconds,
who nearly missed his set time after his car died in Southern
California Thursday morning.]

 

No matter how long artists tour, they remain one breakdown
away from a shitstorm of problems, Leo noted.

 

“It’s inspiring to see Kevin’s performance after all that
crap. And it’s a privilege to get to do this.”

 

Tonight: The legendary Kid Koala does things with vinyl
records that no one else can do. And darkwave rock act Tamaryn takes us to a
sinful place.

 

[Photo Credit: Mattias Corral]

 

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