Monday, June 12th, 2006

The Blow-Up


That’s how the liner notes for Television’s classic live album The Blow-Up open, and it’s as good an intro as anything. Because Television is about guitars – Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd wielding Fenders alternately like bludgeons or razors, lethal either way. Even if I saw nothing else this past weekend at NxNE than Television at the Phoenix, I would have to declare the fest a transcendental success – they were that good. I’ve seen a number of performers over the year that could be called legendary – Mission Of Burma, Pixies, Elvis Costello, Neil Young – but in terms of both show intimacy and personal meaningfulness – I LOVE Television – this show probably topped them all.

Since it had been emphasized that this show would start absolutely at 7PM and there was no opener, the Phoenix was pretty damn packed mighty early. Of course, the band was late and didn’t take the stage until 7:15, but considering it had been 14 years since their last Toronto appearance, no one was going to get huffy over 15 extra minutes. And to reward the Hogtown faithful for their patience, the band kicked off immediately into… a new song. Though unfamiliar, the guitar stylings of Verlaine and Lloyd were unmistakable and the crowd went nuts anyways. And then they went nuts even more when they kicked into the opening riff of “Prove It”.

And this would be the recurring theme of the evening – for a band that hasn’t released anything in almost a decade and a half, there was a very surprising number of new songs in the set – five of 13. There have been rumblings of a new studio album for some time now, and it seems they’ve got the material – what’s the hold up? While the new stuff wasn’t as fiery as the Marquee Moon material, it still sounded great and deserves to be committed to tape. I was a little surprised that not only did two songs from Television make it into the set, but that they featured Richard Lloyd’s fiercest playing on the night. The album versions were a little stiff but live, they were sheer six-string destruction. The remainder of the set was from Marquee Moon with just a single nod to Adventure (“Days”).

And those are the facts and figures from the night – let’s talk abstract. While the band doesn’t play live much, only periodic festivals or one-offs, the musical chemistry between Verlaine, Lloyd and the rhythm section of Fred Smith and Billy Ficca was as powerful as ever, The musical interplay and instincts on display simply amazing to see. Though compared to the Mapplethorpe photo that graces their debut album cover, they’ve all gotten distinctly middle-aged (though Verlaine still looks eeriely timeless), they haven’t lost a bit of fire. Verlaine is still the more cerebral player, contemplating and experimenting with his instrument as he plays (and sometimes incorporating tuning the guitar into a solo) while Lloyd is all instinct and passion. Perfectly contrasted and complimentary. At a few points in the show, I just broke out into a stupid grin because I couldn’t believe I was watching Television play – and play amazingly. I admit there was a part of me that was expecting to be disappointed by my own lofty expectations but instead, they were exceeded. There’s a reason there are so few solos in either punk or indie rock. Not because it’s self-indulgent or uncool, but because these two guys got there first and did it better than anyone. Amazing show, easily at or near the top for the year – and I’ve seen a LOT.

Footnote: Tom, Strats only? The Jazzmaster militia weep. And watching that guy who was hassling Lloyd for a pick get tackled off the stage by security was awesome.

Check out my photos here, and while it’s certainly not an official site, the MySpace dedicated to the band has some classic tracks streaming. For my part, I will bust out something from my own archives – there haven’t been a lot of Television covers over the years, mostly because any guitar-based band would be foolish to try and top the originals – but what about NON-guitar bands?

MP3: Kronos Quartet – “Marquee Moon”

Segue 1: Head Full Of Wishes has more compilation info on spiritual descendents of Television who could solo (almost) as well Luna, including the tracklist for the download-only Lunafied covers record – I think I have maybe half of these so I guess I’ll be downloading away on the 20th – and news that Beggars, Luna’s European label for much of their career, will release their own best-of sometime around September. I’m curious if this will encompass the whole of Luna’s catalog like Rhino’s The Best Of Luna will, since to my knowledge Beggars didn’t handle Lunapark, Bewitched or Rendezvous.

Segue 2: Old guy who still remains vital and relevant Bob Dylan will release his new studio record Modern Times on August 29. While for a lesser artist the title might be a little scary, implying a usually dreadful “hey I’m going to ham-fistedly comment on current events… IN SONG” approach, this is Bob – social commentary is (was) what he was best at back in the day and he is still on a winning streak with his last few albums. If anyone gets the benefit of the doubt, it is he.

Tired of the same old band promo photos showing up everywhere? Sub-Inev was, so he started drawing his own. They’re great, check out the thumbnails under “band profiles”. I particularly like this one for Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s. Speaking of whom, Playback StL has a diary from the band during their March/April tour, which includes the $4000 transmission repair on their van which forced them to cancel their Toronto show. And Chart talks to Margot tourmates Film School about pigeonholes, labels and marketing.

Last week I was given the opportunity, along with a number of other local blog-folk, to take a preview tour of the new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, aka the new opera house at the corner of Queen and University. I’m not on record as an opera buff but I do love good architecture and the Four Seasons is a fine new building indeed – the performance hall is stunning and though I didn’t hear it in action, I’m sure the acoustics are marvelous. The official opening was yesterday and my photos had to stay under wraps until then, but here they are now at la Flickr. Locals know that this facility has been a long, long time in coming and anything that culturally enriches the city is a big plus in my book. The Globe & Mail talks about the Four Seasons (what will this place end up being commonly called? We already have an Opera House, even though it doesn’t host opera) and it’s impact on the city, The Toronto Star welcomes the facility to the city and recounts the long and winding road to the facility’s grand opening. And The Toronto Sun has photos of women in swimwear. God bless the local media.

Livejournal’s 50 greatest Marvel characters of all time is a great list. Why is it great? Just read the Fin Fang Foom entry:

Here’s what you do need to know about Fin Fang Foom; he’s a giant lizard in purple pants. If you don’t understand what makes this great, you probably shouldn’t have any contact with superhero comics.

And speaking of Fin Fang Foom, read Warren Ellis’ Nextwave. Also super-great, and hell – they have a theme song. The first trade paperback, Nextwave, Agents Of H.A.T.E.: This Is What They Want, is out August 30. Via Largehearted Boy.

MP3: Thunder Thighs – “NextWave”

np – Archers Of Loaf / All The Nations Airports

By : Frank Yang at 8:28 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Neil says:


    If only I could schedule visits from far-flung friends… ah well. Next time – I hope?

  2. Don-t Believe The Hype says:

    Too much Television will rot the brain!

  3. Thierry says:

    I completely agree with the Television review – stupid grin included!

  4. alan says:

    Globe and Mail link about the new Opera venue is messed up…

    http://www.theglobeandmail…. RTGAM.20060612.wxhouse12/BNStory/Entertainment/home

    (had to put a space in the link to get it accepted as a comment…)

  5. Frank says:

    whoops on the tgam link – I forgot to paste in the URL.

  6. Mr. Lee says:

    "Footnote: Tom, Strats only? The Jazzmaster militia weep. And watching that guy who was hassling Lloyd for a pick get tackled off the stage by security was awesome."

    As far as I can tell — and I’m no expert — although the guit-box that Verlaine was playing for most of the gig sure looked like a Strat, it actually said "Jazzmaster" on the headstock.

    And in terms of stalkerish fans, the dudes in Television must have the worst of all possible worlds: greying, nerdish dudes. Sad.

  7. Frank says:

    yeah, the natural strat body had a jazzmaster neck on it, which is odd – as far as I understand (and I’m some years away from my heavy guitar-geek phase), Strat and Jazzmaster necks are the same. Or can retrofit onto each other’s bodies at the very least.

  8. John the cover guy says:

    Frank… is it me or does Spiders (Kidsmoke) sound like the sonof Marquee Moon. I’m pretty sure that I read somewhere that Tweddy got guitar lessons for Christmas from his wife from Verlaine or Lloyd. Speaking of Llyod, doesn’t the super fantastic version of Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend come out on Tuesday?

  9. Frank says:

    Hey John

    I’d have to re-listen to Spiders in that context to see if I can back you up on that, but yes, it appears Richard gave Jeff guitar lessons once though he won’t talk about them:

    and yep, the super-deluxe Girlfriend/Goodfriend set is out tomorrow.

  10. Amy says:

    Great live review. I confess (and I haven’t followed things the way I should), I had the impression Lloyd had died somewhere along the way. Good to hear that’s not true. Also, this is the first time I’ve heard Toronto called Hogtown. Chicago used to be known as "hog butcher to the world." Guess there are enough hogs to go around.

  11. Jeremy says:

    Hey too bad I didn’t run into you Frank, all my crew were being buzz killers complaining about the jammy nature of the show. I dug it. I found this clip of Television playing Foxhole on you tube.

  12. Thierry says:

    More Television YouTube goodness:

    – playing Venus:
    – Verlaine pissed off at Lloyd part 1
    – Verlaine getting a little frustrated with Hell

  13. Bryan says:

    frank – glad you like the drawings! thanks for the link!