Television At The Teragram Ballroom, Thursday July 2nd 2015
This last concert experience just confirms what I have always been thinking, we have to continue to go to concerts, nothing replaces a live experience, and certainly not a video or a recording… I sure had heard about the legendary band Television, I had listened to ‘Marquee Moon’ on YouTube, but I only discovered their greatness yesterday night when I saw them perform at the newly opened Teragram ballroom. This new venue seems great by the way, owner Michael Swier, a founder of NYC’s Mercury and the Bowery, just opened the place last May and named it in memory of his wife, Margaret.
So this seems to be the perfect venue for the New York post-punk/new wave band, which you have to see in flesh to understand their intricate guitars, and complex soundscapes. I have to admit they didn’t do much to me the first time I listened to them online, but yesterday was a sort of revelation, but judging by the two nights that the band sold out at the Teragram, and by the fervent crowd pressing in the front, I may have joined the game a little late. Their fans have to be the most friendly people I have met at a concert, everyone was talking to each other, asking me if I knew when was the last time Television played in Los Angeles… I don’t know I have never seen them live! And I know almost nothing about them! ‘It’s a dream come true’, told me a Japanese-American getting in the front next to me,’ They are the reason why I came to this country’, he added explaining he came to New York in the 90’s, run at CBGB in the hope to see Television, and then decided to stay in the US. ‘That’s a good story,’ I told him. And this says a lot about Television’s fans, I was surrounded by music lovers and a bunch of very dedicated and passionate people.
Before Television I had the surprise to see Phoebe Bridgers again, I had just seen her at the Echo on Monday, and she gave us about the same peaceful and tragic set, mentioning Ryan Adams with a proud smile, talking about heartbreaks and funerals through melancholic songs sang with a vulnerable voice. Even alone with a strumming guitar, this woman has a strong and solemn presence and sort of imposes respect and silence, even though some rude people started chatting loudly in the back toward the end of her set. She looked sad, heartbroken and intense during her songs but her mood changed fast and she was joking like a dude between the tunes. It must have been quite hard for her to open for the legendary Television, but she said she also opened for Bob Mould recently, so she is used to rub elbows with legends.
Television were on a ‘Marquee Moon’ ride, they almost played the album in its entirety, adding just a few others on the setlist, guiding us through a maze of sophisticated guitar solos and spaced-out sonic convolutions. Their line up may have changed over the years, but Tom Verlaine is still an interesting frontman, tall and thin, he looks young at 65, inspiring coolness and visibly not interested by stage antics. Taking his time before the first song or while tuning his guitar, he had a Byrne-like eccentricity, and was telling us some random facts about the planet Jupiter between songs. The ambiance was dim while the music was a complete head trip, bringing amazing guitar solos and songs alternating between catchy pop tunes like ‘Prove it’, or more complex and enigmatic soundscapes like ‘Torn Curtain’, or psychedelic and unreleased numbers like ‘Persia’ with its kaleidoscopic krautrock rock drama. I can understand why Television has been declared a very influential band, I could hear a bit of everything in their inventive music, from the Velvet Underground to the Talking Heads, Led Zeppelin or even the Kinks, and from the Strokes to Build to Spill among the young bands which must have been listening. Even without being very familiar with them, they were fascinating to watch, in particular the virtuosity of the interactions between Verlaine and Jimmy Rip’s guitars, gave some very satisfying moments of greatness to music lovers.
The music could even be a bit intellectual, mysterious and cinematic, there were moments of inertia in their songs, building suspense then roaming into avant-garde with long instrumentals and sparse vocals, but they never forgot about melodies and soon they were shaking us with the powerful and unique ’See No Evil’, one of the most enjoyable moments of the night. Television’s show was a triumph because they let the music speak by itself, there was no need of anything else, there was not even a computer in sight – a rare thing these days – and the loudness wasn’t even comparable to that of many concerts I attend. Inventiveness and musicianship were the only things present last night, combined with a careful and thorough attention to the details of their convoluted soundscapes.
Of course, the song ‘Marquee Moon’ was another highlight, and as they stretched the song in a wonderful and never-ending jam, the music had never sounded this tight and unique, thanks to Verlaine and Rip’s guitars but also Billy Ficca’s drums, and Fred Smith’s bass. They came back for an encore with a more rhythm & blues oriented song, but there again, they brought some novelty,… who needs the Rolling Stones at this point?
Hard to believe that ‘Marquee Moon was recorded in 1977, everything sounded fresh and original. There was not a shred of nostalgia involved, and the quartet didn’t even look tired to play songs older than some members in the audience. The gig had attracted young to middle-aged guys and gals, but age doesn’t really matter when music can blow you mind this way.
1880 or So
See no Evil
I’m Gonna Find You