There’s not a whole lot you can say bad about Ted Leo. The Jersey boy has an amiable disposition, he can safely inject political messages into his music without coming off as pretentious or obnoxious, and he and the Pharmacists consistently deliver high-energy live sets that get even the most apathetic onlooker riled up.
The last time they rolled through New York, the boys played a blistering set despite scorching heat at Brooklyn’s McCarren Park pool. The temperature was dizzying, so much so that the good-natured Leo was half-molested by a crazed fan who jumped onstage after too much sun and one too many Brooklyn Lagers.
At night one of the group’s two-night stand at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg on Dec. 4, the show was just as hot, only this time it was biting cold outdoors and things inside were significantly less scandalous (although the highlight of night two came when a fan hopped onstage to perform an impromptu strip tease).
The set featured a good mix of songs from the group’s March Touch & Go debut, “Living with the Living,” and dipped back to classics off of 2001’s “The Tyranny of Dissonance” such as the Thin Lizzy-esque “Timorous Me,” as well as the rambunctious “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?” and the tightly wound guitar work of “I’m a Ghost” from 2003’s “Hearts of Oak.”
Expected crowd favorites such “Me and Mia,” “The Angels’ Share” and “Colleen” kicked the energy up a notch. The guitars were especially taut on the frenetic “The Sons of Cain,” “Annunciation Day/Born on Christmas Day” and the driving fist-pumper “Little Dawn,” while the dub-inflected “Unwanted Things” and Celtic rocker “Bottle of Buckie” offered up a nice change of pace.
Leo kept the mood light, chiming in with bits about dreidels and hemp shoes (at one point actually using the phrase “I’m totally gellin'”). The encore started out with Leo solo onstage, running through covers of Daft Punk’s “Digital Love” and the Pogues’ “Dirty Old Town.”
To the disappointment of fans, he announced that after this tour wraps up, the band will be done playing shows for a while. But for a group as hard-working as these guys, it’s a safe bet they’ll be back in town before you know it.