|Tom Verlaine, Billy Ficca and Jimmy Rip. Fred Smith is not shown.|
Tom Verlaine (Tom Miller renamed himself Verlaine after the French poet) and Richard Hell were schoolmates in Hockessin, Delaware, and separately moved to New York in the early 1970s, both aspiring to be poets. In 1972, they formed the Neon Boys, consisting of Verlaine on guitar and vocals, Hell on bass and vocals and Billy Ficca on drums. In 1973, they recruited Richard Lloyd as a second guitarist, renamed themselves Television, and helped birth New York's alternative rock revolution. Hell left the band in 1975 to co-found the Heartbreakers, later forming Richard Hell & the Voidoids. Fred Smith, briefly of Blondie, replaced Hell as Television's bassist. Television achieved critical acclaim but not commercial success, and split in 1978. The band reformed in 1992 and released its third and most recent studio album, Television. Jimmy Rip replaced Lloyd in 2007.
Concluding a two-night engagement at the Bowery Ballroom on New Year's Eve, Television celebrated by performing most of its debut album and improvising songs and poetry on the cuff. On a dimly lit stage under static red and blue lights, the accent was on the unpredictability of the music. The band started as it often does by turning tuning into a spontaneous, cerebral introduction to the set. As it flowed and floated, perhaps even the musicians had no idea how long it would last. This led to the more structured "Prove It" and "Elevation," both of which featured the band's trademark interlocking guitars, blurring the distinction between lead and rhythm guitars. True to his name, Rip provided the more conventional shreds while Verlaine usually added the more eclectic scales and leads. Verlaine spoke little to the audience, often singing at the microphone with eyes closed or casting his eyes upward. In the midst of one song, he repeatedly interjected the word "security," hoping to get someone to handle a disruptive audience member in front. Otherwise, he seemed pensive, as the tense garage-rooted music increasingly spiraled into heady intellectual jams featuring lengthy, interweaving instrumental sections. Chiming guitars and angular rhythms gave way to fluid leads as the two guitarists spurred each other to experiment further with their craft, possibly leading the audience to ask "where is this going?" Neither the venue nor the band was well prepared for midnight, however. There was nothing resembling balloon drops or confetti cannons; Rip counted off the last 10 seconds and support act Eleanor Friedberger sang a completely inaudible "Auld Lang Sine." Sloppy as it was, the Television concert was one of the best places to be to end 2017 and launch 2018.
- Prove It
- 1880 or So
- Torn Curtain
- Friction (false start)
- See No Evil
- (Unknown) (poem)
- Auld Lang Syne (Robert Burns cover) (with Eleanor Friedberger)
- Psychotic Reaction (Count Five cover)
- I'm Gonna Find You
- (Unknown) ("Rattlesnake")
- Marquee Moon