Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tell a vision

Today's pre-Father's Day treat for me was an afternoon in Central Park seeing what was billed as the last concert ever by the great late-70s NYC rock band, Television. If you're not familiar with them, imagine a punk rock (for lack of a better word) version of Derek & the Dominoes, only a thousand times more original and interesting.

They were preceded by the Dragons of Zynth, best described as venturesome & imaginative but not all that compelling, and the Apples in Stereo, reasonably fun candy-coated Beach Boys-influenced indie pop. The day started warm and sunny but then rained steadily through the Apples' show, notwithstanding that (or perhaps because?) most of their songs have lyrics about how the sun is shining.

Then a long wait, the sun came back, and finally Television came on. I have waited to see them for thirty years, so a half-hour of roadie set-up wasn't too bad. I did see Tom Verlaine, the group's leader, with a back-up band in DC some time in the early 1980s, but it wasn't the same.

Worse news, the group's second lead guitarist, Richard Lloyd, wasn't there - apparently in the hospital; hope he's okay. That kills the whole point, I thought initially - one of Television's amazing features is the tradeoff between two guitarists who play very different lead styles. And indeed the replacement did nothing but strum rhythm and play fills, so there was something missing, but still it was one of the best concerts I've seen.

Verlaine plays in his own head, more than to the audience. Kept tuning and re-tuning his guitar at first, and complained about the lack of a sound check and that the City's sound system was "crap." Though this came out as good-humored, not petulant, and he did seem to like having a large and appreciative crowd that knew many of the songs. Great rhythm section, melodic and distinctive lead playing, he gets just amazing sounds in the high ranges, memorable riffs, the songs have an architecture, and even if ten minutes long they are always going somewhere. The songs and playing do what the group's name promises.

UPDATE: For those who are interested, Richard Lloyd's website reports: "I am sorry to report that Richard is currently unwell. He has been in hospital Intensive Care for 8 days with pneumonia as a primary medical problem. This has responded to treatment and he has shown some improvement and is now free of the breathing apparatus."

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