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(TV) Chicago review from Sonicnet

"Television Get Great Reception At Noise Pop Chicago"

Masters of the twin-guitar aesthetic play first U.S. show
in eight years. 

CHICAGO ? At a time when the legacy of the CBGB era is, due
to the passing of Joey Ramone, very much on the minds of
music fans, Television's performance at the Metro on
Thursday ? their first U.S. show since 1993 ? was to be

Alongside fellow '70s NYC scene vets Suicide, the
tentatively reunited quartet ? singer/guitarist Tom
Verlaine, guitarist Richard Lloyd, bassist Fred Smith and
drummer Billy Ficca ? are one of the keynote acts of this
year's Noise Pop Chicago festival. 

An exacting sense of brittle tension and transcendent
release has been the hallmark of Television, but Thursday's
performance was too ragged to truly exploit the
aforementioned quality the way a longtime fan might want.
Still, that Verlaine and Lloyd, who have sustained a mutual
animosity over the years, could put aside their quibbles
rendered this comeback nonetheless a precious thing (Lloyd
seemed almost isolated from the rest of the band,
sequestered at stage left while his bandmates were weighted
stage right).

Preston School of Industry, a new band featuring former
Pavement guitarist Scott Kannberg, opened the show. In
Pavement, Kannberg functioned in relation to Stephen
Malkmus much as Lloyd did to Verlaine: essentially as
second banana. But whereas Lloyd's first post-Television
efforts, like the solo LP Alchemy, revealed a fully
flowered muse, Kannberg's music amounted to ordinary indie

But Kannberg's band's presence opening this bill, as well
as the previous night's performance by Yo La Tengo,
highlighted the fact that Television formulated the tenets
of what would blossom as indie rock in the mid-'80s a good
10 years prior with their epochal performances at CBGB and
with their tremendously influential Marquee Moon (1977).

That the band imploded in 1978 after two studio records and
reunited briefly in 1992 for another only intensified the
potency of its abstract, thoughtful guitar music. Perhaps
only the Velvet Underground and R.E.M. exerted a similarly
profound influence on underground guitar music of the last
20 years. And those two bands never made a case for the
co-existence of virtuoso guitar solos with art-song
panache. Television did.

The band took the stage around 8:10 p.m. and proceeded to
dawdle in the face of exultant fans. Verlaine and Lloyd
bent down, methodically tuned their guitars and adjusted
their effects before joining Smith and Ficca in a modal jam
that bled into "1880 or So," the meditative opening tune of
1992's Television.

Verlaine, a gaunt, diffident character, retained his air of
offhand hauteur by addressing the audience infrequently ?
an introduction of the band, a claim that "we all went out
and bought new clothes for this show" and a snarky "yeah,
right" reply to requests for the early TV chestnut "Fire
Engine" were the sole comments from the ever-obtuse

Listening to Television's sprightly shuffle "This Tune" or
Marquee Moon's hallucinatory march "Venus," it became clear
to anyone who had never seen Television before what the
division of labor was, guitar-wise. Lloyd plays the
signature riffs and trickier patterns, like the arpeggios
on "Venus," while Verlaine sticks to rhythm and sporadic
fractured solos.

Television's "Beauty Trip" and "Little Johnny Jewel," an
early TV epic included only on the 1982 live record The
Blow-Up, were next, both demonstrating a bluesy tendency
uncommon to the band's oeuvre. And it was here that it
became evident that Lloyd's more conventional style held
the band together, since Verlaine's fluttering and trilling
stylings cannot inspire group cohesion alone (Ficca, as
ever, is more a busy drummer than a straight time keeper).

A slightly less-explosive-than-necessary "See No Evil,"
which opened Marquee Moon, was followed by Television's
sinister "Call Mr. Lee" and Marquee Moon's playful,
stop-time "Prove It."

The show's highlight was a medley of Television's two
sprawling centerpieces, the exploratory "The Rocket" and
"Rhyme," a sumptuous come-on that suggests Barry White with
an infusion of William Blake's aesthetics.

Finally, "Marquee Moon," Television's piece de resistance,
commenced. A swelling edifice of a tune, it was executed
faultlessly by the band until, during the crucial rave-up
toward the song's conclusion, Lloyd broke a string. As he
searched for and tuned his spare guitar, Verlaine, Smith
and Ficca were left to carry on in a diminished capacity.
After five minutes of Verlaine wringing cacophonic notes
with occasional interjections from the rhythm section,
Lloyd returned for a final crescendo. With the set proper
over, Lloyd exited, looking quite sheepish.

Television returned for an encore of the stark "Glory," the
evening's sole selection from 1978's Adventure, and a
raucous rendition of the Count Five's garage-punk standard
"Psychotic Reaction."

As Television left the stage, a self-described indie-rock
fan was heard to comment that his roommate, a jam-band
partisan, had found Marquee Moon the only record the two
could both endorse. 

? Rob Kemp 

[ Fri., May 11, 2001 9:44 PM EDT ] 


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