The Tubes @ Robin 2, Bilston – 18 October 2016

The Tubes play a blistering set at The Robin.

Gig review and photography by Ken Harrison
And so tonight to a packed Robin 2, us little Gig Junkies take a trip to Bilston, to the legendary Robin @ to see a band who are legendary in their own right for lots of reasons. They have always been standout, different, notorious, way back in the day their ’77 tour was banned in the UK due to British censorship. But now 40 years on – and still on form – The Tubes are here tonight – with their ‘Mondo Pulp” tour celebrating the pulp art era with all their classic hits (well.. almost).

So. The Tubes. The San Francisco-based art rock band, whose eponymous 1975 debut album included the rock anthem ‘White Punks on Dope. ‘ Prior to the tour The Tubes frontman Fee Waybill said: “We’re thrilled to be coming back to the country that started it all for us.” And so we are looking forward to the guys putting on a show for us with their quasi-pornographic and satiric take on the media, consumerism, and politics, celebrated by lead singer Fee Waybill’s deranged on-stage characters, and hopefully including the larger-than-life fictitious platform-booted, drugged out British glam rock star Quay Lewd.

The Tubes of 2016 still features four original members – Fee Waybill (lead vocals), Roger Steen (guitar), Rick Anderson (bass) and Prairie Prince (drums), plus David Medd (keyboards), who has played with the Tubes since 2006.

The band, sans Waybill take to the stage around 8:30 and play “Overture” to the excited crowd. Waybill arrives on stage, dressed like a 1940’s spiv, with pinstripe big suit and big hat pulled down a little too far on his head. Here was I thinking we’d be getting some punk, and the band rip into some good ole Rock n Roll with Chuck (90 this week) Berry’s “You Never Can Tell”. Waybill is in his sixties, but you wouldn’t know from the energy of his performance, which puts a lot of the younger bands to shame. Vocally, he’s strong too, and has a bloody good voice.

“I’m getting my monkey on” as Waybill and co. hit “The Monkey Time”, followed almost without a breath by “Tip Of My Tongue”. Having warmed up Waybill and Anderson remove their jackets, and Waybill leaves the stage for the first of many costume changes leaving the band to take on a James Brown Medley. These guys are getting down (and getting on up), big boogie style, fantastic guitar work.

The Tubes

Waybill returns to stage in a straightjacket and a menacing bird mask that would scare the hell out of me if I met him in the street. The band perform “Mr Hate” and Waybill extricates himself from the straightjacket a la Houdini during the song, and now down to a ’T’-shirt, puts the mask back on and completes the track. Next up its “Amnesia” with Waybill, arms outstretched engaging the willing crowd with a little call and response.

The Tubes

Waybill goes off track for an explosive, expletive filled rant about drug companies. “Do you know what this T-shirt symbolises, pointing to a “ROREA 74” logo on his tee. It’s about antidepressants… Big Pharma…. commercials for drugs you’ve never heard of, for illnesses you’ve never heard of… “ He continues ‘do you know what “OIC” is?? Opioid Induced Constipation” and the rant descends into the sewer with Erectile Disfunction, the use of “Cialis/Viagra” and finishing with a potentially fatal injection of drugs to treat a double chin, if you hit the artery, its all over. “But you’ll look good in the coffin”.

Another costume change for Waybill. This time, its a leather jacket and white peaked cap. “We loved these artists, they were our influences” as he reels off a list of rock n rollers. Waybill confesses he wanted to be Marlon Brando “The Wild One” blew my mind” as he introduces a bluesy “Golden Boy” then follows up with Captain Beefheart’s “Gimme Dat Harp Boy” removing his t-shirt, with a hole vest underneath, which gradually gets ripped in two, exposing his (relatively fit) torso, which is then removed completely during “Stella”. The lighting turns blue and dims down and its another bit of theatrics with Waybill sporting a studded mask for “Mondo Bondage”, and a torch shining into his face, the crowd, and also used to represent a phallus. I’m not sure you could take your granny to this one. Waybill leaves stage for another change as the band play some “Television” sounding track with the guitarist taking vocals.

“Bring out the Quizmaster” as Waybill returns with a Flaming Jacket and Bootlace Tie for “What Do You Want From Life”. “How many cowboys in the audience?” asks Waybill, “Not many, I saw you all drive in” he quips. After calling the audience “Sheep******** “ (A slight geographical faux pas, methinks) he changes into a cowboy outfit on stage, whilst talking to the audience about American western movies, actors finished with a steampunk top hat replete with welding goggles. We get a cover of Gene Pitney’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”. “I’ll show you how to be a cowboy” as he goes off tangent again telling stories of the band playing cowboy songs all night at shows and the audience screaming at them for Tubes songs. During “Love’s A Mystery” Waybill takes his leave whilst the band riff the end off the track.

Anderson jacks up Waybill’s microphone stand, way up high.. Waybill returns to stage as “Quay Lewd” in huge platform boots (he must be 7 foot tall!), white lycra trousers, spandex top, with a beer bottle codpiece to complete the outfit and close the set with “Tubes World Tour” and “White Punks on Dope”. Waybill necks a bottle of beer in one go, then pulls out the bottle stored in his trousers for a swig of that one too. Set finished, the crowd are cheering and whistling, there’s even a walking stick being waved. “Thank you f****** BIlston people. I’m gonna be sick now” as he leans on Anderson’s shoulders and is helped off stage.

We get one final outfit change from Waybill for the encore, as he reappears in red striped blazer, boater and tartan trousers. “We got a couple more for ya!” as they close the show with “She’s A Beauty”, The Beatles “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Talk To Ya Later” with Waybill sitting at stage left as the band jam the final song. With a final bow, the band leave stage at around 10:45 after a storming two hour + set.
We’ve been treated to every music genre tonight by The Tubes, a supremely talented, highly energetic band, that can show the young pretenders a thing or two. We didn’t get “Prime Time”… they NEVER play that one, but what a show. If you can get a ticket, if you can get to a show, go see The Tubes.
You Can Never Tell
The Monkey Time
Tip of My Tongue
James Brown Medley
Mr. Hate
Turn Me On
Golden Boy
Gimme Dat Harp Boy
Mondo Bondage
What Do You Want From Life
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Love’s A Mystery
Tubes World Tour
White Punks On Dope
She’s A Beauty
I Saw Her Standing There
Talk To Ya Later
Web: The Tubes Website
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