Musician Ted Leo, on Protests and Living on Tour

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For eight years, Ted Leo has been making music and putting his records out strictly on independent labels. Never one to shy away from songs with a political message, Leo draws from a broad range of influences, including hard-core, 1960s soul, 1970s reggae, and Celtic folk music.

Leo's latest album with his backing band, the Pharmacists, is Living with the Living.

Melissa Block talks with Leo about how to keep anti-war music fresh in an ongoing conflict — and how to keep his vocal chords intact during a rigorous touring schedule.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists in Concert

This streaming live concert is a production of NPR Music and the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.

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Set List

The Songs of Cain

Dial Up

Me and Mia

Army Bound

Who Do You Love?

Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?

The High Party

Annunciation Day/Born on Christmas Day


Some Beginner's Mind

Counting Down the Hours

Little Dawn

A Bottle of Buckie

The Unwanted Things

The Lost Brigade



Timorous Me

Walking to Do

Never Give Up

Ted Leo first emerged on the hardcore scene of the late 1980s in the bands Citizen's Arrest, Animal Crackers and Chisel. He's since become one of the most innovative and important figures in the east coast rock scene, both as a solo artist and as the front man for The Pharmacists. Hear Ted Leo and his band in a full concert, recorded live from the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. Mar. 29, 2007.


Ted Leo performing live at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. Joel Didriksen for hide caption

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Drawing from artists like Billy Bragg, Curtis Mayfield and Clash singer Joe Strummer, Ted Leo mixes punk rock with soul, folk and pop melodies. His music is literate and political with anthemic energy and infectious rhythms.

Originally from New Jersey, Leo formed the band Chisel with John Dugan and Chris Norborg in South Bend, Ind. in 1990. They relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1994 and gained some national attention before splitting up in 1997.

In 1999, Leo released the album tej leo(?), Rx / pharmacists. Though technically the first album for The Pharmacists, it was dramatically different from everything that's followed, with a largely instrumental collection of songs made of samples and experimental sound collages.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists followed with a more traditional EP in 2000 titled Treble in Trouble. The group's breakthrough album was 2001's The Tyranny of Distance, a mix of everything from Celtic and folk to jam-rock that gained the band a cult following.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists are now on tour for their 5th full-length studio album, Living with the Living, their first on Touch and Go Records. The band features Ted Leo on guitars and vocals, Dave Lerner on bass and Chris Wilson on drums.



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