Gig Review and Photography by John Bentley

Television

Television are a band whose reputation rests heavily on their seminal album ‘Marquee Moon’, one of the greatest and most influential guitar albums of all time. Their current low-key world tour takes in just a few UK dates and promises to showcase the album, so no surprises that Manchester’s Academy 2 is packed-out with eager punters.

Television

As we wait for our heroes to take the stage, the music over the PA is an assortment of punk and new wave from the period of the Television’s emergence, including other bands who have made innovative sounds with guitars, like Wire and Buzzcocks. Finally Television take the stage without ceremony, strapping on guitars and tuning-up, without much attention to the audience. To applause they launch into the catchy ‘Prove It’ from Marquee Moon, the successful single from the album which introduced them to a wider UK audience in 1977. Next up is the weird and splendid ‘Little Johnny Jewel’, a very early 7” single, at last now available as a bonus track on the reissued Marquee Moon album. We get a memorably angular rendition of this very angular song.

Television

Having booted us photographers out of the pit after just one song, lead-man Tom Verlaine is also not happy about the lighting. Rightly so as the backlighting is far too bright and is casting shadows on the guitar strings. Then it’s into ‘Elevation’, played very true to sound and spirit of the album, like most of the Marquee Moon songs tonight. Next they briefly dip into their third album for ‘1880 Or So’, which gives guitarist Jimmy Rip a chance to perform a great solo. The original studio version was a little tame and over-produced, but it turns into a memorable epic in the hands of the band tonight.

Rip is the new boy, having taken over the difficult task of playing second guitar, in the role vacated by former-Television man Richard Lloyd. Through the evening Rip turns in a great performance, reprising the famous twin-lead guitar interplay that Verlaine and Lloyd perfected as a Television trademark. Indeed, Television were probably the only band of the punk / new wave era who managed to get away with guitar solos in their work.  With his brimmed hat and beard, making him look rather like Buffalo Bill, Rip also adds a bit of colour to an otherwise visually non-descript ensemble. However, with Television, it’s never been about appearance or stagecraft, but rather the emphasis is very much on delivering the music.

Television

One of the most sublime drum rolls I have ever heard, played by percussionist Billy Ficca, introduces ‘Torn Curtain’. The original track closes ‘Marquee Moon’, but this seems a far superior version, which dispenses with the album’s rather weak fade-out in favour of a ‘weeping’ guitar finale from Verlaine. A request for ‘Foxhole’ from second album ‘Adventure’ is ignored in favour of ‘Venus’. Rather strangely we get no songs at all tonight from Adventure, even though it contains many seminal Television tunes. It’s been widely publicised that a new album has been recorded, but there’s no sign of it being released. Like Neil Young, Verlaine is notoriously perverse and often doesn’t release material that clearly deserves a hearing. However, next we do get one song that is new or, at least, unreleased. The new song is (I believe) ‘Persia’, a lengthy mainly instrumental piece, with a heavy rumbling bass introduction, played by Fred Smith. The song is irregular and experimental, but still manages some great traded guitar solos between Verlaine and Rip.

Inevitably, Marquee Moon’s lengthy title track has to be played and this finishes off the main set. It’s a good version and one that tonight doesn’t feature the album’s false ending and restart. The encore starts with some jamming that suddenly morphs into ‘See No Evil’, but the song quickly breaks down. According to Verlaine, the band are hearing “f***ed-up” sound from the monitors. The techies sort things out and the song restarts. In all the band play for an hour and a half, but somehow it all seems to be over too quickly.

Television

With a 10.30pm Sunday curfew, it appears the set is slightly shortened. It would have been good to hear some songs from the ‘Adventure’ album and also some more new material. Let’s hope Verlaine can be persuaded to release a new album or, at the very least, a live recording. Nevertheless, to everyone’s delight, tonight we get to hear the entire Marquee Moon album bar one track (‘Friction’). Well, you wouldn’t expect Verlaine to agree to play all of the album, and in the right order, would you? It’s been a fabulous evening hearing those great and familiar songs brilliantly played. Maybe the injection of new blood into the band has contributed, because tonight Television seem more invigorated and engaged than when I last saw them at this very same venue in 2005.

Misty Miller

Support tonight is provided by singer-songwriter Misty Miller. Confidently and stridently performing solo with her electric guitar, she has interesting songs and a wide vocal range, almost sounding like Anna Calvi at times.

Television Setlist; Prove It; Little Johnny Jewel; Elevation; 1880 Or So; Torn Curtain; Venus; Persia; Guiding Light; Marquee Moon. Encore: See No Evil.

11 Responses to “Television + Misty Miller at the Academy, Manchester, UK – 17th November 2013”

  1. Rooksby Says:

    Yes, a terrific show… but why the “strict curfew”, I wonder? And why couldn’t Verlaine & co. come on-stage earlier if the venue knew that was the case? It would’ve been great to hear a few songs from the oft-neglected Adventure as well, in fact I’d have happily sacrificed the over-played “See No Evil” or “Venus” for “Ain’t That Nothin'” or “Glory”, or even more new songs…

  2. OldGit Says:

    Thanks for the review and great photos. Went to see masters at work. And that was what we got. No nonsense, almost egoless on stage, masters at work.

  3. MedianAge Says:

    I’d agree with the review – and the comment about the Sunday curfew. I felt the mood of the band changed a bit when the road manager came on stage and had a word with them about 3/4 through the set.

    I think he was telling them they had to be off by 10:30 sharp: they were relaxed and stretching out before that but afterwards were more ‘down to business’. Still great to see them though, even if they didbn’t play Foxhole or Friction.

  4. vinnie Says:

    Ditto.

    Thank you for the review and the pics John.
    I wasn’t at the show but can’t believe they didn’t play ‘Friction’!!!
    I hope they come back soon though.

    I see Misty brought her own mist along.

    Vinnie.

  5. MedianAge Says:

    @Vinnie – according to the review of the Gateshead gig in The Guardian, they played ‘Friction’ there … probably rotating it with ‘See No Evil’ as an encore.

    Just remembered that when a punter shouted for ‘Foxhole’, Jimmy Rip looked over in the direction of the shout, shook his head and wagged a finger as if to say “don’t even think about asking …”

  6. bat6660 Says:

    I was there too and got the handwritten setlist from the stage. Friction was to be played as the last track and is written clearly on it.

  7. john bentley Says:

    Thanks all. Looking at setlists from other gigs recently it looks like they played a couple of songs less at Manchester, probably with the early curfew. Also, for some reason, it looks like they tend to leave out at least one song from Marquee Moon at any one gig on this tour! I doubt they’ll be back in a hurry, as I believe their last visit was 2005. I was there at Manchester in 2005 and there are a few photos I took at that gig on this link-
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/john_arc-images/sets/72157626400923119/

  8. martian martian Says:

    This gig was breathtaking ,in particular 1880 or so,with Mr Ripp’s soaring transcendent solo-they are really the best improvising band you could ever see

  9. John Adams Says:

    Thanks for the gig review and especially giving ‘Persia’ a song name as I wasn’t familiar with it. Tom Verlaine’s guitar playing is unique and wonderful and it was a joy to see something of how he creates such great music from the guitar. As with others I would have loved to hear some live ‘Adventure’ songs: unlike many I wanted to hear the less popular slower tracks ‘The Fire’ and ‘The Dream’s Dream’ being my favourites.

  10. vinnie Says:

    Thank you for set list info @MedianAge, I was wondering what it may have included.I had read the Guardian review and so far, apart from this site, there is a dearth of reviews. Nothing found from the London Roundhouse show for instance.
    I have would have to agree with @martian martian on the subject of improvisation but with one exception. Is anyone familiar with the Welsh band from the 70’s…’Man’? Please take a listen to a live track called ‘C’mon’ from the album ‘Back into the future’ for a fine example.
    Thank you John B for the pics, which include Richard LLoyd of course.
    As for your latest shots, did you notice in the first one that Billy Ficca is playing with multiple sticks in one hand…what a guy!

  11. MedianAge Says:

    Richard Williams has reviewed the Roundhouse show on his blog: http://thebluemoment.com/

    Of course, Richard was also Island Records’ head of A&R in the early 70s, and oversaw the 1975 demo with Eno. The full story of that is also on his blog :)

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