Live at Union Transfer – once upon a time, a Spaghetti Warehouse.
BY JOHN B. MOORE
“Good Evening Philadelphia! We’ve got a lot of songs to get through, so I’m not gonna talk too much,” pledged a dapper Ted Leo, taking the stage of Union Transfer, a former Spaghetti Warehouse turned stellar concert venue.
Thankfully, he didn’t keep his word as Leo, probably one of the most charming storytellers to come out of Jersey since Springsteen, peppered the set with a slew of self-deprecating jokes, one-offs and stories.
Kicking off the show with “Moon Out of Phase,” off his new album, The Hanged Man, Leo and his band played a fantastic collection of newer songs and classics, cramming two dozen tunes with plenty of Leo’s banter in between. The show was a homecoming of sorts for a bulk of the touring band who call Philly home (there was even a moment when Leo and his guitar player traded off their best Philly accents).
Though Leo has never been overtly political, the current administration and its policies managed to play a role in Thursday night’s show regardless. “As you may imagine, it’s a weird time; it’s odder than usual to be out and exuberant, but thanks for having us,” he said early in the set to loud cheers.
Before launching into “Heart Problems,” of off Shake The Sheets, her lamented the move by the president and many in Congress to try and get rid of the Affordable Health Care Act which has given health insurances to millions. “We need to be expanding it, not denying it.”
Leo, on the stage solo for a handful of songs, also took time to acknowledge the death earlier that day of Grant Hart and the passing just a day before of Jessi Zazu, playing a beautiful cover of the Hart-penned Husker Du track “She Floated Away.”
More than two decades into their career, Ted Leo (along with his band) is not just doing ok, he’s hitting his creative stride, managing to be both a better musician and fantastic showman.