Lightning Struck Itself: Television at SummerStage

Strange to have been so excited about seeing a band so notoriously aloof and disconnected from their audience. But the truth is, the disconnection is all surface, not quite masking the real connection, through the music. Carnegie Hall might have been a more appropriate venue. When a chamber group is playing, no one remarks how the band tends to look off in the distance while playing, or how they don’t shout slogans at the audience between songs (“Hey Amsterdam! Yeah — I always heard that Concertgebouw audiences are the best chamber audiences in the world!”). Tom Verlaine crouched down, hiding himself behind his stage monitor, to tune his guitar after every song. He was switching between standard and drop D tunings fairly often, so this wasn’t entirely artifice, but still, this is a man who clearly does not revel in being on stage. At 57, he seems to have finally grown into himself. His attitude must have seemed a little bizarre when he was in his twenties, but now he has a David-Carradine-like stature. The set was not craven pandering, either. Long, jammy tunes, including some newer stuff, leaving off some of the great songs of Marquee Moon–no “See No Evil”, “Friction” or “Elevation”. And the finale, their legendary debut album title track, was awesome, especially the moments after the climax where Verlaine veered off into an improvised ending, leaving his bandmates completely bewildered (I was at the front and saw the look of terror of Fred Smith and Billy Ficca’s faces). Patti Smith, off to the side of the stage smiled approvingly.

Television concerts are, these days, rare events. They have been playing together once a year or so for the last few years. This concert, however, was to hold a special significance: the last Television show ever. So wrote Richard Lloyd on his web site:

After the possible Summer stage show in New York City on June 16, which is to be announced by the city of New York on May 15, Richard Lloyd will, after 34 years, be amicably severing all ties with the band Television, in order that he may concentrate his magnetic force and supernatural energies upon his own career in support of his forthcoming record, due out in the fall[…] To the fans of Television, from the very first show at the townhouse Theatre on March 4, 1974 till the hopeful last show here in New York at the Summer stage — which by the way, is a free show, thank you for your support over these many years. I hope to see you follow both my own and the other members of the band in their own solo efforts for many more years to come.

But it was not to be. Lloyd has recently been in intensive care with pneumonia, is still in hospital and could not make the concert. Do we get a do-over?

Opening for Television were Dragons of Zynth (crazy) and Apples in Stereo (ba-hor-rah-hing).

6 Replies to “Lightning Struck Itself: Television at SummerStage”

  1. Wow, really great writeup. I remember the moment you’re talking about, and you are right that Fred and Billy appeared ready to shit themselves! I also concur on Apples in Stereo. My own writeup and pictures are here.

  2. I disagree with you guys about The Apples’ set. It was raining at the beginning of their set and by the end it was sunny! They brought out the sun!!!

  3. I did my best to not let the rain during the Apples’ set bother me. And it wasn’t so much the rain as the chaotic stream spraying down from the tent top that dampened my spirits. I didn’t dislike the Apples, but, sandwiched between the Dragons and the TV personalities, I stand by my “boring” comment. After the second song or so, I turned to my sugar and said, “You know, I could grab my guitar and be up on stage with these guys right now.” And it was, pretty much accurate. All their songs are built on very well-worn simple chord progressions and have a ton of internal repetition. So you already know them on first hearing. They aren’t evil, and in fact there were a lot of fans up front so the vibe was nice, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see them again. Note to smiley singing guy: why not let smiley guitar guy take a solo every now and then? I also would have liked to hear more from the smiley synth guys. Smiley bass guy was just about right. And the smiley drummer guy reminded me of that “chicken pot, chicken pot, chicken pot pie” guy from Just Shoot Me (well maybe when he had more hair).

  4. Its your blog, stand by your feelings. All I’ll retort with is that if you are a fan of ELO, you will like The Apples!!!
    Yay!

  5. I’m not exactly sure why, but lately I’ve been thinking seriously about adding some classic ELO to the collection… Diary of Horace Wimp, anyone?

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