Wednesday night concerts at First Avenue are always a little lackluster: The audience is tired from having worked all day, and by 11:30, people start trickling out halfway through the main act. Last night's Ted Leo and the Pharmacists show was no exception. The band gave it their all—cursing, crowd-surfing, busting guitar picks—but the crowd of bearded dudes and pixie-cut girls barely raised their PBRs, shifting from one foot to the other like rock 'n' roll zombies.
Love of Diagrams opened the show and made little effort to jazz up the sleepy crowd. The trio of Aussie alt-rockers displayed stellar drumming and wailing guitars, but subpar vocals. To make matters worse, each member remained cemented to the stage the entire time, like a secret trapdoor might open if they moved three feet.
What Love of Diagrams lacked in stage presence, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists made up for in energy and antics. Leo, a Jeremy Piven doppelgänger in tight jeans and a red armband, jumped around the stage, pumping his fists and headbanging like an indie rock star turned death metal god.
"I love you!" someone screamed from the audience.
"You don't even know me, so you can't love me. You can't love me until you respect me," Leo responded. "That's no philosophy, that's funk!" He launched into "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?" a track from their 2004 album.
Around the 10th song, Leo jumped into the crowd and successfully surfed on a bed of hands for ten seconds. The front row fans pushed him back onstage, his button-up shirt drenched with sweat. "Fucking give it up for James," he growled, pointing to the lead guitarist.
Perhaps James was asleep at the switch, because a few songs later, a prerecorded backing track started playing in between tunes. "Never mind the tape delay," Leo laughed. "I'm sorry it's such a fucking disaster up here."
At just past midnight, hundreds of fans stuck around for the finale, nearly two hours after the Pharmacists took stage. Leo clutched the microphone and motioned for the audience to sing along: "I never gave up / I crawled in the mud / but I never gave up."
And on a Wednesday night with tired mornings soon to follow, neither did we.