There were some important lessons to be learned, musically and otherwise, when Ted Leo visited the SPIN offices last night for an intimate solo set. For instance, don’t mix Irish whiskey–the beverage Leo imbibed before arriving–with tequila, the libation Leo was handed a couple songs into his set. “I wasn’t going to do this song, but because of that shot, I think I will,” Leo quipped before launching into one of the three selections he played from his upcoming full length, Shake the Streets (Lookout!) due to drop October 19.
Despite Leo’s modest insistence that the new songs (“Me and Mia,” and “Bleeding Powers” among them) didn’t translate well to a live setting, each came off strongly. If the new material is any indication, Streets will be another impressive effort from the singer-songwriter, with the same characteristics–melodic vocals and heroic guitar hooks–that made Leo’s last album, the critically acclaimed Hearts of Oak, so stunning.
Leo mixed his new material with songs from his two most recent albums, the aforementioned Hearts (2003) and The Tyranny of Distance (2001). One of the highlights included a song from the latter, “Timorous Me,” that Leo felt the need to justify after playing. “I took a lot of flak about that song being a Thin Lizzy rip-off,” he quipped. “I was actually shooting for Van Morrison meets Curtis Mayfield.”
To close things out, Leo opted for a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” and an impressively cool rendition of Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio.” “You guys laugh during that one, but I felt like I needed to bring it back,” he said. “That’s my jam.”