Simplicity and progression were two major themes at the sold-out Ted Leo and the Pharmacists show at the Bug Jar on Monday. Everything from the concert space to the music could be described as simple in some form, yet as the night progressed so too did the level of musicianship and the buzz of excitement and anticipation as the time for Leo to take the stage approached.

The show finally got started around 9 p.m. with Les Aus, a self-described psychedelic, folk-rock duo from Barcelona who filled the Bug Jar with short, folk-rock songs with a Middle Eastern flare. As the White Stripes have shown us, it is possible to play good rock music armed with only a guitar and a drum kit. However, there are few similarities between Les Aus and the White Stripes.

Dalmau Boada is no Jack White, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Boada’s approach to guitar is even rawer than White’s, using a basic, stripped down technique – mostly strumming open strings and adding melody on single strings. But the simple technique yields a more complex sound, which is supported by Arnau Sala’s ceaseless drumming. Unlike Meg White, who could easily be replaced by any toddler with pots and wooden spoons should she fall ill during a tour, Sala has obvious talent as a drummer and provides a driving beat. It’s no wonder that Ted Leo called upon these talented Barcelonans to accompany him on his spring tour across the U.S.

The next band to take the stage was the Duke Spirit, an energetic rock quintet hailing from London, England. They brought with them a sound that was tight and polished while still retaining a raw, in-your-face edge. Led by tambourine-weilding frontwoman Liela Moss, the Duke Spirit exuded confidence without seeming overambitious and drew the audience into their high-energy set.

“When I first heard them I thought they sounded like any other opening act – very plain.” senior Lisa Tsang said. “But [Liela] had a really cool voice. Although she didn’t have very wide vocal range it was kind of raspy and really fit in with the sound of the band – kind of eerie rock.” The Duke Spirit are definitely not the typical music exported from the UK to America – hardly the melancholy acid trip of Oasis or the strict art rock that is Franz Ferdinand.

The musical evolution reached its peak when Ted Leo and the Pharmacists finally made their way to the stage around 11 p.m. Leo, bassist Dave Lerner and drummer Chris Wilson are all incredible musicians and the combination of Leo and Wilson’s high energy guitar and drums with Lerner’s streaming bass lines make for relentlessly energized songs.

Leo has shown his worth in his ability to write music that is fun and upbeat on the surface, but with insightful lyrics that cover subjects from love to politics his music has a depth to it that appeals to intellectual romantics and political activists alike. “He has a really unique sound that’s upbeat and energizes the whole audience,” senior Katie Fry said. “His interactions with the audience made the show even more enjoyable.”

Having been in bands for more than a decade, Leo has had ample time to sharpen his skills as a musician and songwriter and perfect his stage persona as an infectiously high-energy frontman.

There’s an energy in his live show that can’t be conveyed in recordings, but as soon as you pick up “Shake the Sheets” – Ted Leo and the Pharmacists latest album – or for that matter any album from their catalog you’ll wish that you had discovered this musical gem sooner.

Swain can be reached at lswain@campustimes.org.



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