“Oh Canada …” mused Ted Leo as he took to the stage at the Danforth Music Hall. “It’s probably for the best that I’m not at home glued to the TV.” He was referring, of course, to the US elections happening south of the border on that night and I can’t really blame him for being a bit preoccupied with what was going on. It must be a little weird being in another country while there’s an election happening in your homeland. Of course, Leo seems to have a bit of a history of playing Toronto on weird nights, having played Lee’s Palace on the night on the G20 protests, which is fitting since many of his songs have a political theme to them. He kept it light on the political statements though, and largely kept his stage banter to a minimum, opting instead to squeeze as many songs as possible into his roughly 35 minutes on stage. What he did say displayed his sense of humour though, such as his introduction of an as yet untitled song. “I keep wanting to call it The Gambler but I won’t because obviously …” The highlight of his set may have been an off the cuff cover of Rush’s “Spirit Of Radio.” In response to a shouted out request for the song, Leo replied, “Yeah, sure. Why not?” before launching into a sloppy yet awesome rendition of the tune. Geddy, Alex and Neil would have been proud.
While Ted Leo was the main draw for me to this show, I was certainly also interested in checking out Aimee Mann’s set, as were the rest of those in attendance. The audience greeted tracks like “Save Me” and “That’s Just What You Are” with great applause and delighted in interacting with Mann through the time honoured tradition of shouting stuff at the person onstage. In many cases, audience attempts to interact with their favourite performer fall flat, but Mann was game, enjoying the back and forth with her fans. And frankly, some of those interjections were pretty witty. When Mann, who like Leo, made mention of her nation’s election, she stated, “I feel likeI’m losing my mind up here, Just letting you know in case there’s a Loretta Lynn situation Up here,” one audience member shouted out, “We have health care!” After enjoying a good laugh, Mann replied, “I want to make out with you so hard … no matter what I might catch.” Funny stuff.
While the first part of her set focused largely on songs from her latest, Charmer, the biggest response came for her songs from Bachelor No. 2/the Magnolia soundtrack. When the opening chords of “Wise Up” were played, there was one of those moments where the audience claps at the beginning of the song in recognition and appreciation of the song itself. Sure, I could have spent the night glued to the TV watching election results, but this was probably more entertaining. And besides, I got home early enough to catch The Daily Show anyways.