It felt great to be in the same room as Tom Verlaine. I think I would have been content to just sit quietly in that room with him. Television are a holy grail in music. A band that played CBGB’s with Patti Smith, The Ramones and Lou Reed, they are a band that changed everything. Tom Verlaine has been compared to Shakespeare and Arthur Rimbaud. In fact, Tom stole his stage name from Rimbaud’s lover, Paul Verlaine.
Tuesday night, Verlaine was more talkative than expected. After tuning his guitar for the 10th time, he joked that he would switch to piano, although we’d have to wait three and a half hours for the piano to arrive. He also commented on the lighting, that it was too bright for guitar players, and suggested that they turn the back lights off like it was 1943. After surviving a week of Total Trash, it was refreshing to see someone that cared enough to tune so precisely. It didn’t seem to really bother Verlaine either, he just wanted things to be right, and so they were. The guitar work (particularly Tom’s) was breathtaking, often imitated, never replicated.
The band was born 40 years ago, is touring for the first time in 20 years, and the show sold out months ago. Fred Smith played bass. Richard Lloyd was sadly absent but replaced by the very capable Jimmy Rip. I believe Billy Ficca was playing drums. No Richard Hell unfortunately. The set opened with “Venus” and the encores ended with “See No Evil”. They played “Elevation,” “Glory,” “Torn Curtain,” “Guiding Light,” “I’m Gonna Find You,” “Prove It” and closed with “Marquee Moon.” In other words, they played all of the Marquee Moon masterpiece with the exception of “Friction,” plus a few more. In the middle of the set was a long tune that evoked the middle east. The dueling guitars sounded like a swarm of threatening bees, but in a good way, maybe on a nearby patch of flowers.
With the recent death of Lou Reed, I find myself increasingly grateful for these opportunities to see my heroes in the flesh. Let’s hope we get another chance to bask in the GLORY again.