Philadelphia, 2nd December 1992
1880 or So
No Glamour for Willi
Call Mr Lee
"Oh, what good memories you have."
It's great to hear how well this band plays together after fifteen years' break. Having said that, it doesn't sound like a band that's destined to stay together - or, perhaps, needs to stay together. Consider the style of Lloyd's guitar playing in contrast to Verlaine's; before there was a telepathy between them which often seems missing here. It's now a band with two great guitarists with very different approaches and fifteen years of history of doing very different things. Whereas in the past the contrast in their styles often resulted in a tension that produced some unexpected wonders, here there is an air of... politeness, if you like, as if they were trying to avoid stepping on each others' toes.
But, just to get my main problem out of the way, "1880 or So" is a perfect example of what I mean. Lloyd and Verlaine both take solos; Verlaine's fits in with the tone of the song and Lloyd's just doesn't - it's a great "rock" guitar solo but it sounds like Richard Lloyd guesting at a Tom Verlaine concert. Again, In "Beauty Trip", there's a Lloyd solo which is, in the end, just too predictable; there's nothing wrong with it - in fact it's a great heavy metal guitar solo - but it just doesn't seem to belong. Hard to imagine Lloyd (or Verlaine) remaining happy with that situation and, of course, they didn't.
Which is not to say that this is not great music - both Verlaine and Lloyd are playing very, very well and, for the most part, in great sympathy with each other. Listen to "No Glamour for Willi" with Verlaine's liquid guitar lines over Lloyd's chiming chording. Or the guitar interplay on "This Tune".
With the exceptions of "Venus" and "Prove It" (and, of course, "Marquee Moon") all the material is from the third album. Verlaine's vocals are great throughout, everyone sounds happy to be playing together and it's great to hear these songs developed on stage. The sound throughout is crystal clear, if a little bottom-heavy in places.
Right from the start it's great gig - "1880 or So" is pretty damned wonderful. But, there always seems to be a point in every gig where everything just... gels with a band and kicks things into a different place, and here it's "No Glamour for Willi". The vocal is perfect, the guitars just seem to connect and complement each other, there's a lovely Verlaine guitar break and it's a real treat to hear. "Call Mr Lee" is a high point, bringing a tension into the sound. It's always felt like Lloyd's song to me and his playing here is even better than on the studio version. His second solo is fierce and fluid and really lifts the song.
"The Rocket" really (pardon the expression) takes off; it makes much more sense than it did in the studio. The first time I heard it, I played it again immediately just to hear the exciting, roaring guitar interplay/trading lines between Lloyd and Verlaine. For a few minutes you're reminded what a thrilling thing the electric guitar can be.
By complete contrast, "Rhyme" turns the mood upside down; it's sharp and bare with Verlaine's guitar clear and bright, his vocal/talking confiding and intimate until it breaks open with Lloyd's lovely guitar fills behind Verlaine's let-loose break. That they can play these two songs back to back reminds you why you wanted Television to never break up again. "In World" makes me think of the Television of fifteen years earlier, with the interplay and contrast - Lloyd's Keith Richards guitar stabs and accents against Verlaine's melody lines.
There's a rather polite version of "Marquee Moon" in that it sticks fairly closely to the studio version, but notable for the slow coda which speeds up into a minor freakout.
Gone is the sense of frantic energy of early Television live recordings (this is obviously a different band from the 70s one) but it's given way to a more thoughtful, considered feel. It may be the result of experience and history; it may be the sound of a band that's learned to relax; it's probably just the influence of Verlaine's development as a songwriter over the years. Whatever, this is a great recording of a wonderful gig - given the choice of owning either this or the "Television" album, I think I'd go for this. What more can you say?