Television at 9:30

Source: The Washington Post (March 25, 2003)

by Mark Jenkins

When Television visited Washington on its first reunion tour in 1993, the New York quartet picked up where it had stopped in 1978. The band, arguably the best of the original CBGB's acts, played a dazzlingly assured show: stately yet robust, fierce yet lyrical. There didn't seem to be anything missing.

Now in the midst of its ongoing second reunion, Television came to the 9:30 club Monday to demonstrate what it had lacked a decade ago: the insouciance of its early days. Though the band performed material from all three of its studio albums, the emphasis was on its first and most consistent one, "Marquee Moon." Songs such as "See No Evil" and "Prove It" were supplemented by new tunes and some of the group's older songs. Singer-guitarist Tom Verlaine led the band into the past for "Little Johnny Jewel," which Television dropped from its sets soon after it was released as its first single; it also performed a tempo-shifting version of the Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction," another staple of the band's embryonic phase.

The set's looseness allowed for some doldrums, notably during the spacey intro and a meandering spoken-word piece. But the group was precise when it wanted to be, with Verlaine and fellow guitarist Richard Lloyd tightly interlocking their trademark cascading riffs.

The peaks of the nearly two-hour set were thrilling, yet perhaps the music's most remarkable attribute was its playfulness. With the musicians now in their fifties, Television has become a punk band again.