Patti Smith and Television in the space of 10 days, plus Blondie at last year’s Electric Picnic, ostensibly we’re having some kind of CBGB revival. Maybe we’re not, but we’ll take the legendary venue’s most famous acts any time they want to play here regardless. Tom Verlaine and co. are the latest of the ’70s New York stalwarts to play here and provide us with a timely reminder of just how potent punk music can be when look beyond the aggressive, spitting-venom incarnation which seems to make up the prevalent idea of the genre.
Closer to Talking Heads than the Ramones, Television’s intricate arrangements and playing style tonight, as it does every night, veers from jazzy, classical unity to the all-out madness of a garage band rehearsal. A sloppy enough start as the band tune up, give out and eventually get going. ‘Prove It’ is the first to track to really hit home with Verlaine’s pained yelp of a vocal delivery sounding as vibrant as ever. What appears to be a failed attempt to end a hitherto tight ‘Friction’ results in a jam which, rather than detract from the song, improves it immeasurably. Verlaine and the band’s newish (relatively speaking) guitarist Jimmy Rip swapping roles throughout as the song rattles from phrase to phrase with seemingly no end in sight. Believe it or not this is actually riveting stuff, rarely can a band sound so bright and punchy while sounding on the verge of losing it completely.
‘Marquee Moon’ is the inevitable star of the show, however, as the unmistakable guitar part strikes up. There’s a muted cheer from the crowd who probably see such displays as the most un-punk thing in the world. It doesn’t matter, it’s an electrifying intro on record and here, in the flesh, it’s enough to make a grown man – lot’s of grown men – giddy.
An quick break heralds an encore that nobody wants to see end. There is so much life in these songs that you could almost imagine the crowd lapping up the same set twice in a row. Some tasty little drum solos from Billy Ficca – in all seriousness, he didn’t look like he was capable after bouncing his way through the set with with utter disregard for form, now THIS is punk – tie the night together and if this doesn’t put the modern upstarts to shame then they have no right to call themselves musicians. It doesn’t have to be shite to be punk, it can be clever, melodic, simple, intricate, high-fallutin’ and deep. It can be anything you want it to be, but whatever it is, it better be as good as Television.
Television photographed for State by Leah Carroll