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Gig review

Television

This is a sold-out gig, the return of Television to Glasgow after a 37 (approx) year gap – more of this later.

The time-honoured ridiculously early ABC weekend gig times policy saw support act Doghouse Rose, a local (at least to Scotchland) duo already on stage when BM entered the venue around 7.20pm, and they were over by just before 8. Acoustic guitar and female vocalist with some Gillian Welch intonations and a few interesting lyrics, they may not have been the expected genre of support act for the headliners but given it’s a one-off Scottish date by Television I guess they were just available and unlikely to upstage anyone. Polite applause from the audience, allegedly here to see a “punk” band, surely shome milkshake, but more of this later as well.

So the deal is that Televison are here to play the 1977 “seminal” (housewives’ choice, maybe not) LP waxing ‘Marquee Moon’ (what exactly is a Marquee Moon anyway?) which critics have creamed themselves over ever since. The history books (even Betty was just under age in 1977) cite them as one of the first American (or specifically NYC) groups from the CBGBs scene to come over to Blighty and show us that musical progress could be made from the dullish mid-70s (and this happened to coincide with, well, see below).

I believe this is the first UK gig on this current tour (they have been doing some gigs at various ATPs and summer festivals in Europe in the last few years) and they must have flown in from Helsinki, looking at the tour listing.

After a pause to adjust the stage (but it’s very basic, no backdrop, the hire company logo over all the kit, not the band’s) the main act appear around 8.20pm (obviously some groovers have not arrived yet but the majority have and it’s a 90% male and over-50s crowd, just my demographic boys), and the group spend a good 5 minutes tuning up.

Oh, and I do just have to point out that I know Betty’s not great on the photography but the most WTF notice of the year (early entries accepted, missus) was attached to walls all over the venue: “Television don’t want any recording devices or filming in this venue” – I respect the sentiment but FFS, given the name of the band, a bit of humour might have been used here, confirmation that ageing Americans may not quite get irony in their old age.

In fact, this band spends more time tuning up, wincing and tuning up again, than any other act I’ve seen, ironic, right, given they are supposed to be “punks”. Let’s just put that stupid myth, or rather collision, to bed right here before Betty goes on to review the gig – Television were associated with a movement of bands in NYC in the mid-late 70s which included some others like the Ramones (who were less musically proficient) and some others (Talking Heads, Blondie) who had more commercial tendencies, but really they were musos, they just didn’t want the OTT antics of American rock at the time and preferred a more stripped-down sound and image, so there they are. Forever immortalised on the cover of Marquee Moon, ordinary guys with short haircuts, no poodle hair or other affectations, and that was really it. Very like another NYC group 10 years before, who also didn’t really hit it big but wowed the critics, has anyone heard of the Velvet Underground?

Enough history – we have 3 original members of the foursome (Richard Hell quit before the MM album was released but was also associated with punk in US and UK), band leader Tom Verlaine (looking sprightly but must be around 60 now), original bassist and drummer (also looking their age) plus relatively new recruit lead guitarist Jimmy Rip (think Tom Waits mated with Heisenberg) who replaces long time member Richard Lloyd, who seems to have had enough of them for now.

Bands lining up for the “heritage circuit” of replaying the classic debut album in its entirely do I think set themselves up for a certain amount of unnecessary expectation, we don’t really need Television to promise to do MM in full, it’s just quite nice and interesting to have them back, after quite a few decades, I really don’t think they need the pressure of reliving past glories; we’d have paid to see them anyway.

So, it’s a play-through of Marquee Moon (not in exact order of the album but so what), which features some great interlocking guitar and bass, some great riffs, some fairly whiney self-indulgent vocals (underplayed tonight by Verlaine) and some incredible jazz-ish guitar soloing by both Verlaine and Ripp. The music echoes some VU songs, plus Patti Smith band material (the slighly reggae-ish riff of ‘Redondo Beach’, who got there first as it sounds very like the title track of Marquee Moon and at least one other).

Highlights for me were ‘Torn Curtain’ and ‘Venus de Milo’ (although it’s a bit too clever clever if you don’t have any art history knowledge) but the guitar parts were perfect, sticking to the album but with added live grit. They all seemed to be enjoying themselves although not too much chat (Verlaine did say early on that they always enjoyed playing Glasgow as it was originally their first gig outside of NYC, I’m thinking it was a Damned tour support back in 1977 at the Apollo although Betty returned her ‘Apollo Memories”‘ book to the library a few weeks ago like a good girl and can’t be arsed to check online, anyway I think that was the original punk connection (update, looks like it was TV headlining supported by Blondie?).

So by around 10pm they were well into the last and title track to MM, after which there was one encore, featuring ‘1880 or so’ (from 1992’s self-titled third album) and ending with a cover of the 13th Floor Elevators’ ‘Psychotic Reaction’, a garage classic which they gave their own treatment to.

So quite a night then – would be nice to have them back in more relaxed circumstances.