What do you want from a Tubes show? Hot weather respite from a Phoenix summer night? Well, you can’t have that but you are entitled to an Italian crooner dressed in white, a Roman gladiator punk, a pimp who slipped his disco and the world’s tallest (after platform shoes are added) glam rocker, Quay Lewd. To call what The Tubes did in Phoenix, on August 13, 2011 at The Foundry on First, a concert is a misnomer. For a little over two hours, as they have done since their beginning in San Francisco in the early 1970’s, The Tubes put on a show, complete with nine costume changes by lead singer Fee Waybill and a set list that drew heavily from their first album but covered songs from almost every Tubes studio album. Gone from shows of thirty plus years ago were the dancers, acrobats and general mayhem that defined a Tubes show, but the solid guitar work of Roger Steen, the amazing drumming of Prairie Prince, the stoic and dependable bass playing of Rick Anderson and the keyboard flashes of David Medd are the reasons that The Tubes’ music holds up without the need for too much flash and pageantry.
Each year The Tubes go onstage in support of a theme with this year’s show drawing from the Fellini movie, La Dolce Vita. Surrounded by Steen and Anderson wearing Fedoras and green Italian sports coats, Waybill took the stage in his white Italian suit and hat, greeting the crowd with “que bella,” as he launched into “Haloes.” From there, Waybill took both parts of the duet of the James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti version of “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World, coming much closer to sounding like the late hardest working man in show business rather than the Italian tenor.
But Waybill is not content to remain as one character for very long and soon he had donned his multicolored jacket to ask the crowd “What Do You Want From Life,” (I’m not sure what they wanted, because most of those he asked in the front were difficult to understand). After briefly leaving the stage, Waybill returned, as he himself has described, as “a Roman gladiator, toga, punk with his ass hanging out,” taking over the tunes of Waybill’s former punk persona, Johnny Bugger, such as “I Was a Punk Before You Were a Punk,” which was the first real sing-a-long of the night and “I Saw Her Standing There.”
Even though it is Waybill who commands your attention throughout the show, it was nice to see Roger Steen’s vocals and guitar playing being featured during “Brighter Day” as Waybill was offstage for yet another costume change. For those of us for which the sight of Fee’s buttocks proved to be a bit excessive as he gored the band members with his devil horns during “Telecide,” it was a joy to instead watch the drumming of Prairie Prince. His hands moved like lightening across his kit and yet he made everything seem so effortless. No wonder he is in demand by several bands and isn’t always available for every Tubes show. It was a treat to watch him play.
After being lectured by Waybill’s pimp on our need “to control our bitches,” the audience’s highlight, as it is in most of The Tubes’ performances, was the appearance of Quay Lewd, Waybill’s satirical play on the glam rockers of the 1970’s. Slowly making his way around stage with his thirteen inch high silver platform shoes, Quay Lewd led the audience in “White Punks on Dope” to close the regular part of the show. The Tubes two biggest hits, “She’s a Beauty” and “Talk to Ya Later,” were served up as the encore, with Waybill in his carnival barker outfit to tell the audience she’s “one in a million girls.”
Judging from the looks and overhearing the conversations of the audience, the bulk of those in attendance have been Tubes fans since the 1970’s, which is good because this act was not for those under 18. However, based on their performance in Phoenix, the reasonable price The Tubes seem to charge for tickets and the fact that The Tubes do a meet and greet with those who wish after the show, anyone that has always thought about attending a Tubes show, but hasn’t, should go. The band seemed to be having a great deal of fun performing and the audience got their money’s worth and then some. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even get to see a baby’s arm holding an apple.
Set List: La Dolce Vita Overture | Haloes | It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World | Smoke (La Vie En Fumer) | What Do You Want From Life | La Dolce Vita Theme | Turn Me On | I Was A Punk Before You Were A Punk | I Saw Her Standing There | Rumble | 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 | Boy Crazy | White Punks On Dope | Encore: She’s A Beauty | Talk To Ya Later | Third Stone From the Sun