"Television Incite Guitar-Geek Orgy

Rolling Stone, May 9, 2002

by Rob Sheffield

Irving Plaza
March 19th and 20th, 2002
New York

Television were one of the greatest rock & roll bands ever coughed up: mystical guitar boys who dressed up like punks and sang like poets while exploring the mind-expanding properties of the ten-minute Fender Jazzmaster solo. For their first New York shows in almost ten years -- the same week that their old CBGB confreres in the Ramones and Talking Heads entered into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame -- the veterans sounded surprisingly loose. They reached back into their Seventies catalog, tossing off obscure bootleg faves like "O Mi Amore." They radically revamped such classics as "Marquee Moon." And, of course, they took forever tuning up between songs. "We haven't changed," guitar guru Tom Verlaine said apologetically during one marathon tuning session. "The time between the songs is longer than the songs."

Although both shows followed similar set lists, Television improvised different versions of the same songs: the first night offered a much trippier "Marquee Moon," while the second night's "Little Johnny Jewel" was one for the record books. As a lead guitarist, Verlaine hasn't lost a stroke. (So why hasn't he made a proper solo album in fifteen years? Just wondering.) Amazingly, neither has drummer Billy Ficca, whose rolling-thunder interplay with the guitarists was fantastic both nights, as Richard Lloyd's Strat breathed fire into such nuggets as "See No Evil", "Venus", and "1880 or So." With Verlaine jokingly introduced himself as film-noir tough guy Richard Widmark, this reunion was as playful and generous as any Television fan could have hoped: an orgy for guitar geeks.