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(TV) Now, I can die happy (Chicago review)

It was transcendent. It was stunning. I am in awe 12 hours later. Moreover, I
still cannot believe I finally saw Television perform live, and that when I
did, they were so damn good.

I met Maurice, Rick, Leo, Scott, and Heath before the show to get dinner. As
always, it's fun meeting "internet friends" in real life, and I'm sure they all
got a good impression of me, the dorky guy with the Television t-shirt and the
umbrella (in my defense, it WAS raining). 

At about 6:30, we made our way to the Metro. It's a small, fire-trap venue that
feels like someone turned their attic into a concert venue but forgot to tell
the fire marshal. The opening act was competent but enjoyable. At the end of
it, Leo, Scott, and I pushed our way up front (3rd row of people from the
stage, directly in front of the center microphone) and found ourselves in a
circle of fellow Television fanatics - e.g., a fellow New Yorker about my age,
a female former New Yorker, a bit younger than I, who said she would "go
anywhere" to hear Television play, and a guy who had seen the MC5 play in their
heyday and was carrying a duffel bag containing roughly 20 Television concert
tapes in it! 

At around 8:20, Television emerged, and began tuning their guitars. By now, the
venue was packed  - balcony and lower floor - and the audience was already
shouting and hollering everytime Verlaine looked up. The setlist:

1880 or so
This Tune
Beauty Trip
Little Johnny Jewel
See No Evil
Call Mr. Lee
Prove It
Marquee Moon
-- Encore --
Don't Need Your Lovin' Anymore / Psychotic Reaction

"1880 or so" was a bit stiff, with Richard's frenetic soloing almost sounding
as if it belonged in another concert, but after a grinding, hard "This Tune",
the rest of the band began to hit their stride. Fred was solid and serious,
Lloyd played liked a man possessed, Ficca was - as always - the band's secret
weapon, able to single-handled create and suppress a sheer tornado of sound,
and Verlaine looked pleased, smiling at little mistakes, joking with the
audience ("We all bought new clothes for this show" - obviously a lie - and
laughing when someone yelled "Nice pants!" to him). "Call Mr. Lee" was a
powerhouse, with Richard playing up a storm; "Prove It" got the entire audience
singing to the chorus. The band was really at full power on "Rocket", seguing
into "Rhyme" for one of the highlights of the night - the two weakest songs on
the 1992 LP transformed into a tour de force of playing. 

As an aside, we made some of the same observations those of you in the UK had -
the audience did not react nearly as wildly to Lloyd's playing as they did to
Verlaine's - seemingly unfair, but I'm sure Verlaine's front-man status helps.
Richard, actually, didn't look nearly as absorbed in his performance as he does
when I have seen him solo; standing at a distance from the rest of the band, he
seemed a bit listless and detached (although his playing was not!) in demeanor.
On the other hand, after the first few numbers, Verlaine was commanding,
energetically soloing, pumping his leg throughout the show as if it were
driving the band during his rhythm parts, and altogether being far more engaged
than previous reviews of their post-1978 shows had made me think he would be. 

Finally, "Marquee Moon". As Rick said, we got and unexpected bonus when Richard
suddenly broke a string and had to switch guitars during the crescendo. At
first, Tom and Billy did a serious of rapid-fire "question and answer" moves,
with Tom's screeching guitar bits being matched by Billy's drumming; then, Tom
screeched through the crescendo by himself with Billy and Fred racing behind
him. Checking on Richard's progress and smiling, Tom resumed soloing with
Billy, only this time faster, harder, and more possessed; between he and Ficca
there was not a moment of hesitation or silence. Finally, Lloyd re-armed, they
ran through the crescendo a final (third) time, ending the song in a huge rave
up. It was an unexpected surprise - I felt like we should have paid extra to
see it. Richard seemed a bit peeved at having been out of action for so long,
but Tom and Billy were definitely enjoying themselves (Fred's a bit harder to

The band left the stage and the place went wild; for a small venue, it was
easily the most enthusiastic encore-pounding I have heard in a long time. The
band re-emerged and broke into "Glory" to cheers. After four minutes or so, Tom
exchanged glances with the band and they segued into "Don't Need Your Lovin'
Anymore", but after only a minute of this, Tom signaled to Billy, and they
switched to "Psychotic Reaction". (Was it just me, or did Richard looked
surprised about this?) Nonetheless, the guitars locked for this one as they ran
through two verses and corresponding rave-ups before bringing the show to a

It was, all things considered - my plane fare, the ticket, the cabs, etc. -
worth every penny, and the best birthday present I've ever given myself. I was
concerned I would be underwhelmed at finally seeing Television, but I found
them engaging, energetic, and surprisingly tight and fluid for a band that has
barely played together in 8 years. I won't jinx this great night by hoping I'll
get to see them again, sometime, somewhere (maybe next time, they won't be
promoting an album that's been out of print in the US for years). In the
meantime, a big "great show!" goes to Mr. Lloyd, Mr. Verlaine, Mr. Ficca, and
Mr. Smith.

(Was anyone in the audience who also saw the UK shows, for comparison?)


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