04 April 2014

I Want My Little Winghead

Smith, Verlaine, Fica, Rip
I had the good fortune to attend a rock show Wednesday night at the Variety Playhouse here in the ATL. Headliner? Television!

Tom Verlaine's virtuoso guitar, Billy Fica's precision drums, Fred Smith's syncopating bass, and Jimmy Rip's second lead (having replaced Richard Lloyd some years back) gave a somewhat jaded crowd of hip oldsters (old hipsters?) a memorable night of eccentric, edgy music. The show consisted of the entire album Marquee Moon (except 'Friction'). It opened with '1880 or So' from the third album, arguably the best song in the show except 'Marquee Moon' which was transcendent. It included 'Little Johnny Jewel', the band's first single, as well as an early demo and a cover(!) of the Count Five's 'Psychotic Reaction'. [Nothing from Adventure, though, to my chagrin.]

My friends and I had never had the opportunity to see the band before, though we all had bought the album when it came out in 1977. And we knew the music pretty much note for note. Yet, none of us had seen a show quite like it. Verlaine, though he fussed with it, never traded off his wood-grained Stratocaster. By the time he got it tuned to his liking, his tone was honey. Sweet. Rip never changed out his Telecaster either, but—and this was my only criticism of their performance—it had too brash a tone and didn't complement Verlaine's marvelous, subtle style.

It's hard to describe Television's musical performance. Are they the 'jam band' of the punk set? Are they jazz musicians self-limited to a rock idiom? Are they absolutely unique? I'd say 'yes' to all three.

What's clear to me, though, is that this is an original combo. They never achieved the commercial success of their peers like Patti Smith and The Ramones, but it's not clear they ever wanted to. They are dedicated to and provide a tight vehicle for Verlaine's quirky voiced avant vision of rapturous, contrapuntal rock music.

If you get the chance to see them, go!

1 comment:

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Wow. I've never seen them.

P.S. I see mention of Jerry Garcia, even.