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Lives of Others

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:12 pm

I’m catching up on a blogging backlog.

Last weekend I saw Das Leben der Anders (aka The Lives of Others).

It’s the story of a well regarded Stasi agent, Gerd Wiesler, in East Berlin (circa 1984) who starts spying on a playwright who they suspect might be a sympathizer. Wiesler learns that the real reason that they are spying on him is that the Minister of Culture, a high ranking official, wants the playwright out of the way so he can make advances on his girlfriend unencumbered. Wiesler becomes more sympathetic with the playwright because of this, even though he’s a strong party supporter.

It’s really an amazing film. The writing and direction (both by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck of the famed Henckel von Donnersmarcks) are both superb. The lead actor playing Wiesler, Ulrich Mühe, has a very Kevin Spacey quality to him, both in looks and some of the restrained, subtle acting he does.

It manages to be a lot of stories in one. It’s at least love story and a political thriller.

Bringing it: Ted Leo @ Great American (3/2/07) and Kresge, Stanford (3/4/07)

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:08 am

Last week, I saw Mr. Ted Leo a couple of times, first as part of Noise Pop and then as part Stanford Concert Network’s campus concerts.

I came to the first concert with a familiarity with Hearts of Oak and Shake the Sheets. I like those albums, but didn’t play them too often.

I got there on Friday just before the Georgie James set. They were competant musicians, but it was sort of take it or leave it in the end… I might post separately about some thoughts it got going in my head, but I don’t want to connect them directly with this band, because the thoughts aren’t.

After the usualy pre-headliner shuffle and push toward the stage, Ted Leo came up to much applause and excitement. Immediately he started rocking out with high energy. After a handful of songs, I started thinking “oh, he’s just playing the hits. what’s he going to do when those run out?” After a few more songs I realized he wasn’t just playing hits; his catalogue is just really good.

He bantered well between songs, answering people yelling out from the audience and whatnot.

Ted Leo live is like the best things from punk, indie rock, and folk. Punk: high energy and a DIY melody. Indie: great melodies and chord progressions. Folk: interesting and multi-layered lyrics.

Ted really goes all out with the whole show. I’m surprised he can put so much into his vocals and not completely destroy his voice. His falsetto is pretty amazing, too.

He played a handful of new songs, including a really great one called “Lost Brigade” with a really nice repeated line “Every little baby has its own song” (which doesn’t sound great when I write it, but you can check out a live version of the song here). They also did a live covers of Chumbawumba’s “Rappaport’s Testament: I Never Gave Up” and the old Irish tune “Dirty Old Town.”

I went in not knowing what to expect and in the end, I was pretty much floored by his performance.

Sunday’s concert (which the Stanford Daily covered) had different openers: Stanford bands. They weren’t really good at all, though the last, the Bee’s Knees were an interesting combination of 50’s throwback and modern pop.

It was in an odd venue, Kresge Auditorium. Immovable seats close to the stage made for awkward standing during the show. The crowd was not your standard indie rock crowd. Far more—what do you call them?—frat boys in attendence.

But for Ted’s part it was a fairly similar performance in that he brought his A game once again. There was a fairly similar set list, but he was still great. One amusing anectdote from the evening was when Ted started saying that their set was originally going to be longer but … (then he sort of trailed off, I think he was going to say that his voice was starting to go or that he wasn’t feeling well). Someone from the crowd then shouted “Fuck you!” to a completely stunned Leo and crowd. He then just said something like “Okay. I guess we’ll keep going” and then they rattled off another half dozen songs.

Overall, two really enjoyable shows.

Recommendation: go see Ted Leo when he comes to your town. He’s touring the US starting at the end of March. Check to see when he’s in your town and buy tickets.

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