Concert Reviews

Television at The Phoenix Concert Theatre

Photographs by Sarah Rix.

I conducted a rare interview with the legendary Tom Verlaine of Television last week and he relished in the fact that the youth of today have access to so many songs. Television have a small but precise discography and have survived over the years on the quality of these albums and legacy alone. When Television were announced as performers at this years Canadian Music Week, I imagined it would be a disaster to be able to get into this show. I somehow made it to the front of the Phoenix and saw a large converging of music fans, old and new, eagerly waiting for this legendary rock band to take the stage; This band that has been resurrected by word of mouth and the very internet Verlaine was happy about.

We didn’t wait very long as Television took the stage at 8:30. There was very little use of lighting and barely any set design. If any band doesn’t need any of these common concert attributes, it’s Television. As soon as they started, they were absolutely impeccable. The entire show was nothing short of flawless,  and that is something that can rarely be said about live performances. Verlaine and Jimmy Rip swapped guitar solos and licks at ease and they pulled off every single note with not just technicality but with emotion. They battled their instruments in such unorthodox ways as I’m not used to seeing guitar players nearly break their strings plucking or have their fretting hand quiver as much as Verlaine does (yet he is always in complete control). Fred Smith was an original member on their classic album Marquee Moon and apparently hasn’t played bass in many years but there was no way of telling so as he humbly pulled off every riff. As for Billy Ficcas frantic and powerful drumming, which resonates tenfold live, the entire set felt like a roller coasters climactic drop because of his on edge performance that just never ever died down.

“Why don’t you just get it over with?”, a fan yelled, referencing the band’s signature ten minute opus Marquee Moon. Verlaine replied comically: “that question will haunt you for years.” They eventually played this track and extended the free running middle. In fact they extended a number of their tracks as one of their songs got extended to over twenty minutes with loud jams, soft ambient passages and all of the guitar battling solos in the world. They played a good chunk of material, including most of Marquee Moon.  It was difficult to know when songs were about to end with songs either being elongated or stopping abruptly as they do on album,  and it took an already thrilling night and made it even more exciting.

I’d like to say that it’s a shame that I’ll never see Television in their heyday, but it is almost impossible to imagine the band pulling off a better show than this. I don’t think the band knows what it means to age. Well,  of course they don’t, not with their timeless tracks. After seeing them live, I’ve begun to question the kinds of excuses many artists give for their performances. This band of whom are well into their 60s in their respective ages played as if they were in their 20s. There was no waiting for the show to pick up. There wasnt a structure to playing weaker songs first and better songs later. The entire set was just one complete emotional power drive. “We want to blow minds, ” Jimmy Rip said to me when I talked to him after the show. I think there’s no use when it comes to hoping for the inevitable,  as Television were easily one of the best bands I have ever seen live and they are mandatory to see when they come back again.

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.