As you may have heard, Richard Lloyd -- or, as Tom Verlaine referred to him, "our regular guitarist" -- is still in the hospital. Jimmy Ripp subbed, but didn't take any solos. The first few tunes suffered a bit from the lack of soundcheck and the "shit system" (Verlaine's words) at Summerstage -- "Venus" was disappointingly listless. (I think the crowd was supposed to sing the "DIDJA FEEL LOW?" and "HUH?" bits, since the band did not, but it seemed like me and the guy next to me were the only people who were up for this.) But after that, things picked up with brilliantly deconstructed versions of "Little Johnny Jewel" and "Prove It." They followed with some newer, mostly unrecorded (I think) material, with "Glory" from Adventure sandwiched in there. The highlight of the new stuff was "Persia," aptly described by one of the commenters at Brooklyn Vegan as "that middle east meets James Bond theme by way of the 'You Really Got Me' riff extended tune." Verlaine's slide playing sounded absolutely otherworldly. Of course, they finished with a 20-minute "Marquee Moon," while the stage manager kept furiously signaling them to wrap it up. (Are you fucking kidding me?)
This hit had the most favorable risky-improv-to-wankery ratio of any rock gig I've ever been to. This is my first time seeing Tom Verlaine play live, and I think he's my new favorite guitar player, like, ever. His chops, which were merely impressive in Television's heyday, have become truly monstrous. He was able to get a mind-blowing variety of sounds out of a straightforward Strat-Vox setup, just by tweaking the pickup selector switch and the tone controls, and by changing up between picking, fingerpicking, and slide. (At least, that's all I saw -- I'm sure the guitar geeks will let me know if I've missed anything crucial... ) He somehow managed to be simultaneously quirky and earthy, wildly unpredictable and impeccably structured, dispassionate and blisteringly intense. If you are one of the few remaining jazz fundamentalists who think they have nothing to learn from rock players (ahem) you seriously need to check out some Tom Verlaine, preferably live.
A huge part of Television's appeal is the audible tension between Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, and of course that absence was deeply felt. Jimmy Ripp did a fine job subbing in, but he did not attempt to challenge Verlaine the way Lloyd would have. As previously mentioned, this was to have been Lloyd's final gig with Television, had he not fallen ill. I sincerely hope Richard gets well soon, and when he does, I hope he and Verlaine and Fred Smith and Billy Ficca will get together one last time.
I arrived at the park over an hour later than planned (thank you, F train!) so unfortunately I missed all of Dragons of Zynth except their final tune. The stuff on their MySpace page is really interesting, though, so I'm looking forward to catching them some other time. The Apples in Stereo are a bubblegum power-pop band heavy on the of harmony vocals, jangly guitars, and analog keyboards, occasionally spiced with bits of psychedelia. I love this kind of sound when it's done right, but after a fun and catchy beginning to the set, they quickly wore out their welcome. It didn't help that it started raining and kept coming down for most of the set, but there's only so much of frontman Robert Schneider's super-nasal voice I can take, and the hooks started to wear thin by the end. Who on earth thought it would be a good idea to pair these guys with Television?
UPDATE: Truly hardcore Television fans will know this already, but I was curious whether any of the bootlegs of Televsion's 1970's live shows ever got the CD reissue treatment. I did some online digging, and of course the answer is "duh" -- there's The Blow-Up, which culls from a variety of live hits, as selected by Tom Verlaine, and Live At The Old Waldorf, which has superior sound quality, but Rhino only did a limited-edition run of 5000, hence the ridiculously inflated price of used copies. But you can listen to most of the cuts -- which are absolutely smoking -- on Last.fm:
And iTunes has a "box set" of both '70s studio records plus Live At The Old Waldorf, or you can get the live records individually.
More pics below the fold...