Portland, Oregon, 1978
Little Johnny Jewel
Lori (Poor Circulation)
O Mi Amore
The Dream's Dream
Television in Portland almost at the end of their (first) life.
"Adventure": here's a frantic noise, the sound of something wild crammed into a space too small to contain it, spilling/bursting its way out. The energy; the desperation; the sound of Richard Lloyd's guitar spiralling all over the place. The intensity of the playing is almost scary.
Someone once wrote that watching Television live was like "watching four blindfolded men walking a tightrope". It's a great line, and you know what they meant, but make that three blindfolded men and Fred Smith. There has to be somewhere for the other three to come back to when they get a little... loose, and when they do there's Mr. Smith right where he should be. This bottom-heavy recording does let you hear how Fred holds the line through each song and how he's the anchor in the band.
And here's a chance to take in Billy Ficca's genius. Listen to the terrific version of "Marquee Moon" here and catch those wonderful little rolls and flourishes and polyrhythms that he hears/plays everywhere. his ever-rolling, ever-shifting drums link everything together; it's like a cross between the sheer exuberance of Keith Moon and the spare precision of Charlie Watts. The way that, in the middle ("quieter") section of the song he teases the mood along, a foil to Verlaine's guitar as if there was a telepathic link between them, creating then punctuating little spaces in the sound.
The version of "Little Johnny Jewel" here is Television at its live best; there's a section in the middle where you're sure that none of them knows where it's going next but they hold/mould it together and Ficca is always there. The song always sounds like a Verlaine monologue but then you realise it's Ficca who provides the momentum, ties everything together and creates the spaces in which Verlaine can seem to float as if he's making it up as he goes along. Verlaine's solo here is a slow-building release of controlled passion, the motes and runs spilling out almost reluctantly with that tone that couldn't possible be anyone else.
In "Foxhole" Verlaine's guitar is fabulous, an angry thing. They play "Friction" as if they'd just made it up and wanted the world to hear it immediately, the guitars wrenching out sheets and slabs of noise.
Richard Lloyd stamps his furious energy all over "Poor Circulation", "Satisfaction", "Fire Engine" and "O Mi Amore" in bursts of searing guitar runs and phrases, as if his fingers can't quite work fast enough to get it all out.
This is almost the perfect Television live setlist and ends with a rare live recording of "The Dreams Dream" featuring some of Verlaine's loveliest fragile playing.
After this show there were three more gigs to go before they split apart.