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NXNE: Television

11-Jun-2006 08:34 PM Contributed by: Anonymous Concert Reviews
Television DSC01589
June 9, 2006
Toronto, Ontario
The Phoenix Concert Theatre
Review and Photos by: David Ball
New York City proto-punk legends Television played to a packed Phoenix Concert Hall on Friday night in what should be remembered as one the biggest coups in the NXNE Festival’s twelve year history. Television last played Toronto in 1992 when they toured in support of their third and last studio release, the eponymous Television. Since then, the CBGB icons play only a handful of sporadic gigs each year - so this one-off was exciting on many levels.

DSC01583And for nearly two hours, enigmatic leader/guitarist/singer Tom Verlaine, guitarist Richard Lloyd, drummer Billy Ficca and bassist Fred Smith experimented and tested-out some really good unreleased songs while reworking and deconstructing some of their best known classics – making the night feel more like a private jam session rather than an “official” concert. Anyone expecting a nostalgia tour through their influential 1977 masterpiece Marquee Moon or the almost as good follow-up Adventure must have gone home shocked and inevitably disappointed.

There was some uncertain moments early on, evident in some of their meandering work-in-progress arrangements - something that can be expected from a band hasn’t played together in a number of months. But their psychedelic rewrite of Days from 1978’s Adventure was fascinating and felt more "Haight-Ashbury" rather than "The Bowery" from where it was spawned. Marquee Moon’s normally taut Prove It and See No Evil were loosened considerably thanks to some fiery interplay between Verlaine and guitar foil Lloyd – truly two of rock’s most underappreciated guitar heroes. Smith’s thudding bass egged-on Verlaine’s trademark half-step behind the beat lead on the ten minute marathon Little Johnny Jewel generating the leader’s finest guitar moments. Surprisingly, the best two songs on the night came from their underrated self-titled ‘92 release. Even Lloyd’s less than perfect guitar mix couldn’t diminish the potency of his angular ripping lead runs on Call Mr. Lee and the trippy 1880 or So.

Time has not diminished the power of Television’s most famous song, Marquee Moon, which induced frenetic energy well past its ten minute duration and even fueled a second encore - a sloppy but joyous version of Hendrix’s I Don’t Live Today. Television’s set of thirteen tunes showed exactly why they destined to be more influential rather than famous or successful. They remain too jammy for punk and too unconventional and experimental for mainstream rock. New songs are longer and even less commercial sounding than most of their old classics, which will inevitably further cement their legacy as one of rock’s most criminally overlooked bands. But at this point, I don’t think would want it any other way.

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