Although it may have not been one for the ages, it certainly was one for the aged. On the cusp of lead singer Fee Waybill’s birthday, he will turn 63, or as Waybill stated, “two years away from permanent death,” the Tubes showed those in attendance at the sold out Talking Stick Resort Showroom in Scottsdale, on Friday night, September 13, 2013, that 60 is the new 40. Or maybe even the new 30. For two and half hours, Waybill and his band mates turned back the clock for the enthusiastic crowd, to a time when TV was king and white punks dabbled in taking dope.
Back in the day (a phrase used by us old folk reviewers) a Tubes show was a chaotic mix of dancers, acrobats and music. But finances, not years, have been the factor in downsizing the Tubes show. Waybill still changes outfits faster than the speed of Cher (or for those not old, Lady Gaga). From Italian crooner, to Roman gladiator punk to Lucifer wearing a TV set to bondage master to pimp, Waybill’s characters still remain the center of the Tubes shows. Waybill might have been “too weird” to land the job as lead singer for the first band he auditioned for back when he attended Scottsdale High, but that weirdness contributes to making a Tubes show stand out.
As the band’s focal point, it’s easy to credit Waybill for making a Tubes concert memorable. However, equally enthralling are the guitar wizardry of Roger Steen and the blazing drumming of Prairie Prince. Add to that the solid bass playing of Rick Anderson and David Medd’s impressive keyboard work (he has the job of covering the keyboarding of two original band members, Vince Welnick and Michael Cotten) and you realize the musicians behind Waybill are equally important to the band’s live show success.
In a nod to the band’s very beginning, the night opened with “Up From the Deep,” and “Haloes,” the first two songs from the Tubes’ 1975 debut album, “The Tubes.” Steen handled the vocals for the first song before Waybill hit the stage. Dressed in a white Italian suit and hat and greeting the crowd with “que bella,” Waybill’s Italian crooner persona took over the vocals for the latter song.
With “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” Waybill took on both parts of the duet of the James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti version of the song. Being the showman he is, it was no surprise that Waybill channeled Brown much better than the Italian tenor.
Waybill then got comfortable, both with the crowd and on stage. He first shed his jacket for “Smoke.” Soon he lost his shirt, leaving only his white sleeveless t-shirt, a look Waybill described as “what his dad wore,” as Waybill talked about his upcoming birthday and his days of growing up in Scottsdale.
The wish list found in the song “What Do You Want From Life?” was tailored toward the older, conservative Arizona demographic as Waybill offered not one, but a two year supply of antibiotics and a gold Kama Sutra coffee pot that showed only one basic sexual position. But the archaic, red-staters in the audience knew and shouted out that the final item was a baby’s arm holding an apple.
While Waybill was offstage changing costumes, Prince, Anderson, Medd (who coincidentally shares the same birthday as Waybill) and especially Steen, with a stellar guitar solo, made one appreciate their musicianship with “Trouble Every Day.” Then Waybill returned as a Roman gladiator, toga wearing, punk, taking over the songs that Johnny Bugger made famous, “I Was a Punk Before You Were a Punk” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” Now the show within the show had really begun.
Soon the Italian characters were left behind and in their place, stood Waybill, now in his furry, Lucifer costume with his head stuck inside a television, ready to commit havoc onstage while singing “Telecide,” as he gored the band members with his devil horns. To the audience’s delight, Waybill came into the crowd and gored the members in the front rows and in the aisles as well.
A darkened stage only gave glimpses of Waybill’s bondage outfit (perhaps thankfully), as he performed “Mondo Bondage.” Medd got some solo work as well as Steen again during “Brighter Day,” before Waybill returned as a pimp, complete with his twenty dollar tie.
After a hysterical tirade by Waybill’s pimp on how those in Arizona should use their inner pimp and cultivate a real gold mine by bilking the yearly winter visitors to Arizona from the Midwest, the almost on Medicare Waybill sang about how he had “Slipped His Disco.” Prairie Prince fans were treated to a spellbinding drum solo during “Tip of My Tongue.” The beautiful and ironic “Don’t Want To Wait Anymore,” finished up that portion of the show’s set list.
Despite all of the characters Waybill plays, it is, as Steen, put it, the no longer glam rocker, but “gram rocker” (as in grampa and gramma, not, although it might be appropriate to include, the drug reference), Quay Lewd that the audience wants to see. It was difficult to ascertain what was more absurd. Quay Lewd in tight silver pants and his thirteen inch high silver platform shoes or an audience filled with grandmas and grandpas shouting back to the stage “white punks on dope.” With Quay Lewd prone on the floor, the audience perhaps was a better indicator that you’re never too old to rock and roll.
As one might hope, The Tubes two biggest hits, “She’s a Beauty” and “Talk to Ya Later,” were offered as the encore before Steen took one last amazing guitar journey with Jimi Hendrix’ “Third Stone from the Sun.” As is their custom, the band stayed around for a meet and greet with anyone who wanted to say hello.
The night was gram rock at its finest. Yes, the Tubes and their fans have gotten older over the years. But that didn’t stop the enjoyment factor both on stage and in the crowd. The Tubes returned to their hometown to help celebrate a birthday. Let’s hope this remains an annual tradition long after Quay Lewd requires an oversized walker to get around on stage.
Set List: Up From the Deep | Haloes | It's a Man's Man's Man's World | Smoke (La Vie En Fumer) | Amnesia | What Do You Want From Life? | Trouble Every Day | I Was A Punk Before You Were A Punk | I Saw Her Standing There | Rumble | Getoverture/Telecide | Mondo Bondage | Brighter Day | Pimp | Slipped My Disco | Tip Of My Tongue (with drum solo) | Don't Want To Wait Anymore | Lust For Life | White Punks On Dope | Encore: She's A Beauty | Talk To Ya Later | Third Stone From the Sun