Television at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm

I went to the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, last night, with my mate Paul, for a wonderful exercise in nostalgia. Television. The makers of “Marquee Moon” , one of the all time great albums (No 27 in my recent Top 100). New York new wave, 1977. Fronted by Tom Verlaine.

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Tom, along with Fred Smith on bass and Billy Ficca on drums, remain from the original band. Tom was always the face of Television, except perhaps in the very early days, when Richard Hell was in the band.  He’s in his sixties now but looked in good shape, dressed in black (of course). The hair has thinned and, disconcertingly, this reminded me of Sven Goran Eriksson, the Swedish one time England football manager. I tried to put that out of my mind!

The concert began with a bang: “Venus” and “Elevation” from “Marquee Moon”. Two of my three favourite Television songs! (The third’s a bit obvious).

I fell into the arms                                                                                                                            Of Venus de Milo….

Interestingly though, the other guitarist, a man in a cowboy hat, with a big country beard played most of the intricate, soaring guitar. And extremely well too. His name was Jimmy Rip. This pattern continued on most of the “Marquee Moon” songs… until the finale.

And the great thing was that every song from “Marquee Moon” was played. Not in order, like Bruce did with “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” at Wembley, earlier this year, but all were present and correct. There were some engrossing diversions too, including a haunting and lengthy rendition of one of Television’s earliest songs, “Little Jimmy Jewel”.

There was something gripping in the way the concert built to its climax.  “Torn Curtain” was as nervy as ever, although Tom had to skip some of the frailest high notes, the tears in the chorus. “See No Evil” was frantic, punchy. Things slowed down for an eerie, droning workout which I didn’t know, but which the amazing Setlist.fm tells me was called “Persia”. This was the moment when Tom really took up the lead guitar duties. Warming up. “Guiding Light” was lovely, with an almost country feel to the guitar, courtesy of Jimmy Rip.  And then, of course,  “Marquee Moon” itself. How could it be anything else? From the moment that almost-reggae scratched riff started, it was totally captivating. And you realised why Tom gave Jimmy the lead on most of the earlier songs. He was saving himself for an utterly extraordinary solo workout on “Marquee Moon”. If you’re familiar with the tune, you’ll know how, halfway through, it launches into a rumbling, steadily building guitar solo, with that chopping rhythm still lurking menacingly in the background. Well, Tom lurched into the solo and then kept going for how long? Ten, fifteen minutes? I lost track of time, totally absorbed in the sound and the vision. Every part of the fretboard explored, fluid, dark, uplifting. Another of the great rock’n’roll moments in my concert-going life, the second this year, after Bruce. One of my favourite tracks of all time bent, stretched, discombobulated and finally brought down to earth with gentle care. Just amazing.

That was the last song of the main set. I thought that might be it. Television might be too cool to do an encore. But no, they came back to do an absolutely rocking version of “Friction”, with Tom again taking lead guitar duties. And then, bizarrely, a rather conventional blues number. The fans would have liked “Foxhole”, from the second album, “Adventure”. But hey, we got the whole of “Marquee Moon”, who’s complaining?

I have Paul to thank for suggesting this concert a week or so ago. It was both nostalgia and something new. The guitar playing of Tom Verlaine and Johnny Rip was a magnificent, fraught, inspiring journey in sound.

Right now I think “Marquee Moon” might be moving up my 100, back into the top ten where it always belonged!

I even bought a £20 T shirt – from the Australian tour, as I discovered after I’d bought it – which I shall hardly ever wear. But it felt like the right thing to do.

I couldn’t get a really clear photo, especially as the lighting was quite subdued. But as ever, the tricks of the light and taking off the flash give you some interesting images. Hope you agree!

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About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
This entry was posted in Music - concerts, lists, reflections and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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