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Live: Ted Leo, Unplugged, 11/17/08

Ted Leo, socially conscious musician. Indie-rock god.

After playing an amazing solo set of 26 songs, featuring a variety of covers, rehashed solos and improvised rhythm sections, Ted Leo and the crowd gathered at the cozy Graham Memorial Building began their fireside chat. He was supposed to talk about social commentary. I just remember that his favorite songs are "Bleeding Powers" and "Little Dawn." Still, it made me think.

A week ago I witnessed the Flobots and Blue Scholars playing at the Cat's Cradle. Maybe because it was the day before Veteran's Day, but probably because they are like that all the time, The Flobots tried to direct their audience to "Rise" and Fight With Tools. They even sold their trademark American flag bandanas as merchandise. Too bad the Blue Scholars didn't get the memo, otherwise maybe they would have played "Motion & Movement" during their set. You get the feeling though that post-11/4, their message will no longer have it's bandwagon and they can no longer cover "The Final Countdown" in their encore.

Ted Leo was different. During a question regarding Chumbawumba signing with EMI, he respectfully gave his opinion as well as what he would do himself. No criticism. No message. Before one of his covers, he described how much he enjoys simply playing the song alone in his room and he seemed sincere about wanting to share that feeling with a crowd. To get an idea of his personality, one needed to listen to the bare guitar solos in "The High Party" and "Timorous Me" to really his music and his message.

You can't force a message, you just have to keep playing and hope people are listening. For two hours on Monday, I heard him sing every word.


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