Ted Leo and the Pharmacists played Crystal Ballroom – 9/7

Ted Leo returned to greater Boston to kick off a tour with the Pharmacists, joined by singer/songwriter Tami Hart and reunited emo cult-favorites Everyone Asked About You.

2023’s been a pretty good year to be a Ted Leo fan. After the triumphant return of his mod-punk three-piece Chisel for a Numero Group reissue campaign and a Spring tour, Leo’s main band just hit the road again for their first trek in five years. That run kicked off last Thursday, right here in town.


The Pharmacists have expanded and contracted their ranks over the years, from a lean power trio to the current six-piece ensemble. Owing to illness or medical complication, only four members of the team – Leo, bassist Marty Key, longtime drummer Chris Wilson and relatively new recruit Ralph Darden – made it out for these shows, but the quartet brought more than enough heat to make up for it during Thursday’s set.

Stretching to 23 songs, the night touched on new material and plenty of fan-favorites, with Leo’s elastic voice and underrated, firecracker guitar work in fantastic form. Wistful new tune “Leaving River Road” opened the show with Leo alone on stage, before the band joined in partway through second song “Timorous Me,” per tradition. Time away from the full-band incarnations of these tracks seemed to imbue them with an extra burst of breathless energy from the whole crew, and the momentum was such that the night still felt young as they rounded the corner on a cover of X’s “Drunk in My Past” (joined by opener Tami Hart), personal fav “The High Party,” a humorously-introduced “Bottle of Buckie” (in which Leo espoused the powers and dangers of the titular fortified wine), and the always-stirring “Biomusicology” to close the set. A delicate “Gold Finch and the Red Oak Tree” snuck in there too – at a fan’s DM’d request – to prove Leo’s also got the capacity for tearjerkers amid the punk polemics.

Openers Everyone Asked About You, who were set to play the first East Coast dates of their reunion run that weekend at NYC’s Saint Vitus, were a pleasant surprise as a late addition to the bill. Leo and the band have a mutual Numero Group connection, and previously shared a bill when Chisel played February’s 20th anniversary party for the label out in Los Angeles. Their melodic midwest emo was a great balance for the bill alongside the Pharmacists’ spiky power-punk and Hart’s three-piece indie (where Leo also joined in for a cover).

See photos of all three sets below.