Saturday at Canadian Music Week: Brendan Canning and Television

It was the most beautiful day of the year so far; the sun was still shining when I arrived to see Brendan Canning. His set was cool! It was the first time this trio played together and so there were some new voices playing with Canning’s old familiar one. He mostly stuck to the acoustic guitar, accompanied by electric guitar and an assortment of mini-percussion instruments. They left the drum kit behind this time.

After a few songs that drifted toward folk, there was a beautiful song I didn’t recognize that had the washed-out guitars and echoey atmosphere I know and love so much. Canning promptly switched directions again. “This one’s going to use less tremolo and phase, because, I know, the last one was pushing it.” His attitude was oddly apologetic. I, for one, was excited to see him play. They finished the set with a song that sounded like a Grateful Dead tune, with temporary lyrics read from a scrap of paper. There is something really satisfying to me about seeing material take shape before the eyes and ears. “Now that wasn’t so bad,” Canning apologized again. “That’s it, we’re done.”

Television took the stage next. Opening with “1880 Or So” from their 1992 self-titled, they clamoured about for a little while. It took a while for the vocals to come in but, once they did, it struck me that I was seeing a really important band. Their signature sound was still intact, and their songs sounded like they could have been written yesterday.

As an avid hater of guitar solos, I am surprised that I loved the show so thoroughly. This set was all about the guitar, each song being stretched out with long instrumental jams. Tom Verlaine bends his notes so that his instrument is a violin in one song and a sitar in the next. Hearing “Marquee Moon” live was so fulfilling! That guitar riff is among the best out there. When Verlaine said “We’re trying to think of songs we stopped doing. I think it might be fun to do them again”, I didn’t possibly believe they would play “I’m Gonna Find You”. They played the rare gem and it was a complete stunner!

This is was far from the cheap reunion show a small part of me feared. Television played a set of what sounded like entirely fresh and relevant material. I left knowing that I made a few good choices this Canadian Music Week.

Hilary Johnston
Hilary Johnston is a writer, event manager and musician from Toronto.
Hilary Johnston