I really hope The Tubes don’t leave it another decade before their next UK tour. I mean the 50th anniversary will be in 2025 and their oldest member will be nearly 80. The band have always had a soft spot for the Brits, a country that welcomed them with open arms and cheque books back in the late-seventies heyday. And, anyway, Fee Waybill’s father came from Brighton so he’s almost one of us.
Fee may make his money in real estate management these days but his heart has always been with music and, specifically, the stage. He is a born showman and whilst the stages may have got smaller over the years his larger than life personas have never been diminished.
When you then factor in most of the original band members remain who took San Francisco by storm in the early-seventies, The Tubes should be cherished. And factor in again, these guys are wonderful musicians. A special mention in this respect to David Medd who – in the shadows for the duration and conspicuously absent from the post-gig “meet and greet” – provided immaculate Tubes-tinged keys and backing vocals throughout.
And, as ever, Prairie Prince one of the great rock drummers – together with Rick Anderson – laid the essentially funky backbeat whilst Roger Steen excelled throughout with his psychedelic infused guitar figures. It was all rather immaculate.
The Tubes story is one of two halves – the “controversial” stage antics of their classic 1977-79 period when they sold out Hammersmith Odeon for five nights on the trot, counterbalanced by early eighties debt and label pressure for a hit single. They finally got that in 1983 with the Top 5 (USA) ‘She’s A Beauty’.
But if debt and record labels intervened to shape the band’s later story, it did mean – thanks largely to the deft production values of David Foster and Todd Rundgren – we have a really interesting recorded legacy. And it’s this dichotomy – the flamboyant stage act and the great tunes – that really marks this band out as both legendary and ground-breaking, but most of all, more durable than most.
How else can you explain that a band that released their last studio album in 1996, last toured in the UK over a decade ago, can make such an impact on a packed – and healthily mixed aged – Manchester audience?
The last time we saw The Tubes on tour in the UK was 2004 when they adopted a “wild west” theme. As Fee explained to us in our two part radio specials (see news page), the band are never keen to repeat these shows so for new excursions they take another theme and then bend the catalogue to suit. Of course they will be forever bound (ahem) to feature their classic set-pieces like ‘Mondo Bondage’ and ‘White Punks On Dope’.
This time round the under-pinning theme of a two hour plus show was the dark 1920s crime fiction genre, evoking grainy black and white images of private investigators puffing smoke at street corners with their collars up, or alternatively Waybill making his entrance dressed like Philip Marlowe. And, successively, Waybill introduced some new characters to emphasise the tunes, such as during ‘Mr Hate’ and ‘No Way Out’.
Fee Waybill left The Tubes for a period in the late-eighties and apparently audiences were asking for their money back when they realised they had a substitute frontman. He is unique and when he’s off stage the world – or at least The Tubes’ world – is a poorer place. His game-show host persona for ‘What Do You Want From Life’ developed into a hilarious rant and we now know that Fee, at least, wouldn’t mind an Aston Martin DB9 as the band cut a swathe up the M6 to get to this gig.
I don’t think we’ll ever hear The Tubes play the whole of ‘Remote Control’, their most consistent album from 1979 at the height of their powers, as no doubt some more active bands would and they apparently never touch their eighties swansong ‘Love Bomb’ in spite of the fact that it is popular and not a bad album. (A highlight tonight was the late Vince Welnick-inspired ‘Don’t Want To Wait Anymore’. Vince also penned ‘Feel It’ another great track from that 1985 album).
But we should be grateful that Fee and the gang are still out there, 40 years later, and we welcome a speedy return so they can at least explore some more of that glorious back catalogue and Fee Waybill some of those glorious alter-egos. Maybe even with a new album? I’m sure Fee could find useful subject matter for inspiration from the last two decades, not least social media, the internet, bankers/excess, and the current state of the music industry.
40 years later we still need The Tubes and – hopefully – The Tubes still need us. The most entertaining two hours I’ve spent at a gig since 2004.
Review and photos by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
1. Getoverture 2. This Town (Frank Sinatra cover) 3. Town Without Pity (Gene Pitney cover) 4. Power Tools 5. Rat Race 6. Crime Medley (instru) 7. Mr. Hate 8. Amnesia 9. No Way Out 10. Life Is Pain 11. Mondo Bondage 12. Up From The Deep 13. What Do You Want From Life 14. Sushi Girl 15. Don’t Want To Wait Anymore 16. Boy Crazy 17. White Punks On Dope
Encore: 18. She’s A Beauty 19. I Saw Her Standing There ( Beatles cover) 20. Talk To Ya Later 21. Third Stone From The Sun (Hendrix cover)
The Tubes 40th Anniversary Tour continues in Glasgow, The Art School (August 9), Leeds Brudenell Arts Club (August 11), Edinburgh Liquid Rooms (August 12), and Wolverhampton Robin 2 (August 13).
On Sunday 28 July 2019, David Randall celebrated his 600th show. “Assume The Position” started in June 2007 on UK City Radio before transferring a year later to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio. The show includes tracks played on the first show plus Upton Blues Festival highlights, new music and the regular features “Live Legends” and “Anniversary Rock” which this week celebrates the Island Records label 60th anniversary.
Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
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Power Plays w/c 5 August (Mon-Fri)
COCO MONTOYA I Wouldn’t Wanna Be You (Alligator)
SKYFEVER Burning Hands (OTI Records)
HENRY’S FUNERAL SHOE High Shoulders Everywhere (indie)
MICHAEL J BOLTON Trans Lunar Injection (Market Square)
Featured Albums w/c 5 August (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 STRANDED New Dawn (Escape Music)
12:00-13:00 HOLLOW HAZE Between Wild Landscapes And Deep Blue Sea (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 SESSION AMERICANA North East (indie)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
BRIAN ROBERTSON – Diamonds And Dirt (2011)
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