Television’s Marquee Moon was one of the formative albums of my university days: its different musical parts interlocking with the precision of a Swiss watch, it was nominally part of the New York punk scene yet boasted virtuoso musicianship and guitar solos. And the lyrics! Mostly elliptical fever dreams from some bad trip, but with a smart sense of humour: “I fell right into the arms of Venus de Milo”.
At a hot and sweaty Brixton Electric on Sunday night, I discovered I was not alone. Right from the jaunty opening track, where on the chorus the audience spontaneously shouted “Prove It!” as one, you knew you were among like minds.
Television ripped through their main hits, including every song on Marquee Moon, all at a slightly faster pace better suited for live play. Elevation and See No Evil were particular stand-outs, with Verlaine’s skittering guitar as fresh as it was 39 years ago. Just as the Chinese have a whole different musical system from ours, it’s always seemed as though Verlaine was literally off the scale – playing a series of (mostly minor) notes that bear no resemblance to the conventional octave.
Some of his solos seemed adapted and improvised on the night, which keeps it fresh, but the downside of this became apparent during a ponderous instrumental segment towards the end that had many people heading for the smoking patio.
This wasn’t mere guitar noodling. This was Tom Verlaine heading to his local Noodle Bar and ordering every item on the menu. Oodles of noodles. With a sheet of doodles to go.
But all was forgiven with the thrilling climax: Marquee Moon itself. Again, played a little faster, lacking some of the usual tight control (brilliant drummer Billy Ficca did seem a little sloppy at times), it nevertheless all came together during the final slow guitar instrumental, where the backing builds and builds into a giant wall of sound, with Verlaine adding a slight change to the final chord sequence that achieves an even more satisfying resolution.
“Prove it!” the audience had shouted at the outset. By the end, Television had nothing left to prove.
Television play tonight (June 12) at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-On-Sea