In the hands of Tom Verlaine, a simple Fender guitar can propel a nightclub through time and space. At least, that's how it felt during his Friday performance at the Roxy, as the punk icon and his band spun out expansive, intricate songs with a psychedelic intensity seemingly powerful enough to send the room to Saturn.
Wearing a red T-shirt and a black hoodie, the pale, lanky co-founder of pioneering '70s punk band Television even looked slightly alien as he traded pretty-to-noisy riffs with guitarist Jimmy Rip, building sonic castles by turns delicate, mysterious and foreboding. Verlaine's sinuous, transporting solos progressed fluidly from jazz to funk to surf to rock -- sometimes in the span of one tune.
Stark and jazzy, lush and bluesy, abstract and earthy, the 90-minute set offered selections from his current albums, "Songs and Other Things" and the instrumental collection "Around," as well as earlier works. As he conducted this visceral head trip, Verlaine quietly absorbed the half-capacity crowd's adulation and calmly handled technical difficulties. "We played here, like, 20 years ago," the passionate gearhead joked as the players worked out a sound kink, "and the buzz is still here."
In the 14 years since his previous solo album, the singer-songwriter's kept busy with various projects, including Television reunions and playing guitar in Patti Smith's band. So it's no surprise that his playing, always revered and long emulated by countless admirers, has been honed to a breathtaking sharpness that was technically impressive and purely delightful.