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Review: Television at the Sage Gateshead

Church bells ring, then Tom Verlaine leads his Television on.They tune up, perhaps unaware given their sporadic live appearances over these past four decades

****

Church bells ring, then Tom Verlaine leads his Television on.

They tune up, perhaps unaware given their sporadic live appearances over these past four decades - but more likely uncaring - that this doesn’t happen that often any more.

Tom’s band seem frozen in time. Defined by their 1977 debut Marquee Moon, they’ve never quite outgrown the legend of this landmark work.

Cited as one of the finest albums ever, the NME had it at 29 in their recent (and youthful) 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time list, identifying it as the single most pivotal post-punk record.

Though hugely influential, they’re probably the least famous members of that 70s New York scene that included Patti Smith, The Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads. Taut, economical, thrilling playing (heard the one about the punk rock record with guitar solos?) is the cornerstone of fine songwriting and Marquee Moon compares with any of their peers’ work.

Tonight, this assured debut is the main reason we’re here and it’s all here. Tom and brilliant guitar foil Jimmy Rip still play like they’re in CBGBs with that belief in what they do.

Aside from Glory, highlights are all from their debut work: a bewitching Venus – ‘I fell right into the arms of Venus de Milo’; the infectious, intricate punk of See No Evil; addictive Elevation and ebullient Prove It, with irresistible drumming from Billy Ficca.

They play like it’s still 1977, and why should they do any different? This is (pop) art, their attitude seems to say. And why mess with something if it’s a masterpiece? Guiding Light is the closest they get to a torch song, tender and lovely. No matter that they haven’t changed in years when they’re this subtle, gentle and gorgeous.

And Marquee Moon itself: we listen in on a conversation the guitars are having and enjoy an experience in punchy, love-drunk, vicarious majesty.

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