[LIVE REVIEW] Ted Leo (solo) at The Drunken Unicorn, 5/11/2011

Ted Leo opened Thursday night’s solo show at the Drunken Unicorn with some sweet, sweet fan service in the form of “Nothing Much to Say,” a deep cut from the criminally overlooked Mo’ Living EP that has rarely been played live.  It’s a ballsy move to open a show with a song that’s only going to be recognized by the hardcore completists in the crowd, but it’s not surprising coming from Leo.  He’s never been afraid to dip into his back catalog, and his setlists typically read like they were assembled by an enthusiastic fan rather than a road-weary veteran out to push a new album.  That’s even more true on a tour like the current one, where he doesn’t even have a new record to promote.  Last night’s setlist mixed the hits like “Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?” with rarer stuff like “The Sword in the Stone” and “You Could Die (Or This Might End),” plus a handful of covers that included songs by Hüsker Dü and Eddie and the Hot Rods.

The highlight of the night was easily “Bottled in Cork,” the only song of the night where Ted busted out his acoustic guitar. He came to the front of the stage and did the song without any amplification, asking for and receiving audience participation with the vocals. He seemed genuinely grateful aftwerward, explaining that he doesn’t do the song every night and thanking the crowd for going along for the ride. The gratitude was obviously mutual; this was one of the most responsive rooms I’ve seen in a long time. I’ll admit to getting a few goosebumps when the crowd started clapping out the drum part on “Timorous Me,” with exactly zero prompting from the man on-stage.

Not even some drunken pseudo-heckling during the encore could ruin the mood.  Ted took it in stride and managed to turn it into a good-natured back and forth with the crowd.  When he finished his encore, he said thanks one final time, saying he truly appreciates it when a crowd actively engages him.

I didn’t take that video above, but it shows most of that encore exchange and does a pretty good job capturing the atmosphere.

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