Television: The Roundhouse, London – live review
The Roundhouse, London
19th Nov 2013
Protopunk originals Television play The Roundhouse and Willow Colios revisits songs from his favourite album.
“Give me Love, give me Can, give me Meat Loaf, give me Rush, give me Marquee Moon. Michael Ball or The Fall I can listen to them all in the twilight or the afternoon.” So wrote Nigel Blackwell on Irk The Purists from Half Man Half Biscuit‘s Trouble Over Bridgewater LP.
Well I’ll take Love, Can, The Fall and Marquee Moon out of that lot, with Television’s first LP scrapping with Love’s 3rd (Forever Changes) at the top of the pile of all the records I own. A confession before we start on tonight’s gig; I might have listened to Marquee Moon more than any other album.
The original punk band, Television played CBGB’s in New York before Patti Smith, The Ramones and Blondie with a straightforward set up of two guitars, bass and drums without a keyboard or saxophone in sight. And they were progressive (without the excesses of prog rock) in the sense of playing long songs with sometimes improvised yet precise guitar solos and were the true pioneers of what became know as New Wave, influencing Talking Heads in particular.
Now in a third or fourth incarnation and without original guitarist Richard Lloyd they are still going strong with erstwhile Mick Jagger and Willy Nelson collaborator Jimmy Rip. They seem to be on a mission to be as faithful to the records as possible, Rip eschewing his preferred Stratocaster for the Telecaster favoured by Lloyd in order to get closer to the Marquee Moon sound.
Tom begins the show by saying, only half jokingly “We were crying for hours that this show would sound terrible cos its such a big place. Hope it sounds ok.” It’s does sound pretty incredible but they clearly take these things seriously. Both Verlaine and Rip tune their guitars meticulously after ever song. But they use harmonics so even this actually sounds quite good. They don’t muck around, like a lot of larger bands do, switching guitars after every song either and there isn’t a technician in sight.
The set kicks off with Venus, with its beautiful descending guitar lines and classic, sometimes cryptic Verlaine Lyrics, “The world was so thin between my bones and skin” and the brilliantly funny “I fell right into the arms…Venus De Milo.” Verlaine;s jaunty vocals proving once more that he’s up there with Dylan, Lou Reed and David Berman as the greatest of non-singers.
I’ve heard a rumour that they aren’t playing anything from brilliant second LP Adventure on this tour and that proves to be true but these masters of ensemble rock get through all of Marquee Moon’s eight tracks by the end of the set. Time doesn’t drag at all and we are barely through six or seven songs in 45 minutes. There is guitar noodling a plenty but in the least excessive way possible. The rhythm section of Billy Ficca on drums and Bassist Fred Smith (both original members) is one of the greatest, tightest and also most expressive in the Rock and Roll era. As well as the Marquee Moon tracks there are some from 1992’s self titled comeback LP and some rarities too. Persia has a menacing bass line running right through it sounding like the kind of track The Fall play for Mark E Smith to take the stage to.
On Guiding Light, Tom Verlaine won’t start the song until the lighting person gets their act together. “We need blue lights on the stage for this one”. The staccato chorus of Elevation is a real joy but Marquee Moon is of course the glorious centrepiece of the evening. It really is an incredible piece of work that repeats and goes round in endless circles, it’s a true marvel. Interestingly Rip is faithful, note for note to the original Richard Lloyd solo whereas Verlaine improvises his. Sadly the large crowd cheer too much to allow the false ending and the return of Billy Ficca’s distinctive drum beat, but it doesn’t matter.
Television, although perhaps not as versatile/volatile as with Richard Lloyd do sound fantastic and Rip, like Verlaine is accomplished guitarist of real character, as well as respecting the source material enough not to embellish it that much.
The only regret this evening is that it passed too soon. Television are real masters of their craft. May they go on and on.
Little Johnny Jewel
1880 or So
See No Evil
I’m Gonna Find You