Sunday, June 17, 2007
See No Evil
Amidst a crowd of hipsters, young children and those nearing the age of the performers, my friend, Ani, and I went to see Television in Central Park yesterday in the first weekend of the SummerStage series.
Although they released only a few albums during their career, Television is a highly influential band and is one of favorite bands based alone on one album: Marquee Moon. The follow up, Adventure, is quite good but it comes nowhere near Moon. The album is lyrical, well made, sparse but gets a loud sound and, most importantly, has some of the best guitar work on any album I’ve ever heard from Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, who couldn’t be at last night’s concert because he became ill recently.
Without Lloyd, the concert basically became a Tom Verlaine with Television show because he just completely took over. Lloyd’s replacement, Jimmy Ripp, was very capable and actually pretty good, but he along with bassist Fred Smith and drummer Billy Ficca were just along for the ride.
The beginning of the show was a little rough up and Verlaine let everyone know about it because he was complaining about the sound system. And he sort of had a point. Their instruments sounded just fine but it was tough to hear him, and there was also a slight crackling noise that works when you’re listening to a Blind Lemon Jefferson album, but not during a concert. This problem was mostly sorted out by the time they got to the first song that appears on Marquee Moon, “Venus.” It’s an interesting song that contains one of Verlaine’s finest phrasing:
“Tight toy night, streets were so bright.
The world looked so thin and between my bones and skin,
There stood another person who was a little surprised
To be face to face with a world so alive.
Didja feel low?
No, not at all.
I fell right into the Arms of Venus de Milo.
I stood up, walked out of the Arms of Venus de Milo.”
You must keep in mind he pronounces it Me-Low.
During the middle of the show, Television faded a bit and considering Ani and I were standing pretty much exactly where the crowd split from real fans to people just there because it’s a free concert, you could hear a lot of people talking and it took away from the show. But after some good performances “Little Johnny Jewel,” “Glory” and a song that went on for 20 minutes but I have no idea what it was called (Television is infamous for playing unreleased songs at their concerts), people were more into it but were itching for the one song many people were there to hear performed.
And just like every concert they’ve ever played, they ended their set with that song: the fantastic “Marquee Moon.” Outside of the album version being one of my favorite songs of all-time (here’s a link), it was also the first time I saw the whole crowd memorized by Television. The original goes on for roughly 11 minute so everyone knew it was going to go on for some time, but that doesn’t mean everything enjoyed it. What I mean is that Television was playing over their time limit so the suits behind the stage were getting pretty upset and, from what I’ve heard, the stage manager was screaming at the band to end or they’d cut the sound. I don’t think Verlaine gave a shit and instead played “Marquee Moon” for a little over 15 minutes. His guitar, which ranges from long, non-pretentious notes to little “cluck” noises, was absolutely spectacular while the other boys kept right up with him. At the end of the song, it was one of my all-time favorite concert performances. And I don’t think the crowd would disagree with me.
Next up: Richard Thompson on the 21st.