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The Tubes at The Space at Westbury

The Tubes The Space at Westbury The Completion Backward Principal Tour Westbury, NY December 15, 2019

The Tubes are an under-rated rock band. Before MTV made rock ‘n’ roll and theatrics really fashionable. Fee Waybill and his band delivered a brand of performance art and powerful rock that was well before its time. The San Francisco-based band is best known for the singles “White Punks on Dope,” “Talk To Ya Later” and its biggest hit, the 1983 smash “She's a Beauty.” Led by vocalist Waybill (known for portraying a wide and strange array of characters including the glam-rocker, stacked-heel wearing Quay Lewd and punk rocker Johnny Bugger), the Tubes’ current line-up also includes original members; drummer Prairie Prince, guitarist Roger Steen and bassist Rick Anderson and longtime keyboardist David Medd.

The band’s first album, the self-titled The Tubes (A&M Records, 1975) was produced by the legendary Al Kooper and featured “White Punks on Dope” and “What Do You Want from Life?” Young & Rich (A&M Records) followed in 1976 and reached #46 on the Billboard 200. Remote Control the fifth album for A&M was released in 1979 and was produced by Todd Rundgren. The concept album is about a television-addicted idiot savant and featured the single “Prime Time.” The Completion Backward Principle (1981), the group’s sixth studio album was its first for Capitol Records. It was produced by Grammy-winner David Foster and is another concept album. The record is presented as a motivational business document. The album contained two hit singles, “Don't Want to Wait Anymore” and “Talk To Ya Later.” The band’s second release on Capitol Records, Outside Inside (1983) was also produced by David Foster and yielded the Tubes’ biggest radio hit “She's a Beauty.” The single made it to #1 on The Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and #10 on the Billboard Pop Chart. The album peaked at #18 on The Billboard Album Chart.

The band’s 2019 national tour features, for the first time, a performance of The Completion Backward Principle album though in true Tubes fashion, not in the album’s original running order.

On a cool Sunday evening at The Space at Westbury, the Tubes offered its devoted Long Island fans the rare opportunity to experience a wonderful night that featured performance art and kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll. The Tubes took the stage and Waybill wearing an all-white tuxedo proceeded to deliver the “The Completion Backward Principle Talk” soliloquy. The monologue explained the theory of the principal. The band then played an explosive and high-energy version of “Talk To Ya Later” followed by an equally exuberant take on “Sushi Girl” during which Waybill donned a Japanese kimono. The audience was comprised of die-hard Tubes’ loyalists. Waybill even made it a point to say “hello” to a long-time fan sitting in the first row. As the musicians wound their way through the classic tunes from the timeless album (“Amnesia,” “Mr. Hate,” “Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman,” “Think About Me,” “A Matter of Pride,” “Don't Want to Wait Anymore,” “Power Tools” and “Let's Make Some Noise”), the audience members were ecstatic as they danced and sang along.

Waybill had the audience eating from the palm of his hand as he shifted gears from the tunes on the album to the band’s “greatest hits.” Waybill changed outfits and personas with ease and delivered a tight, fun glam-rock/punk song cycle that included: “What Do You Want From Life?,” “I Want It All Now,” “Mondo Bondage” (for which he donned actual bondage wear), “Out of the Business,” “Show Me a Reason,” a cover of David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” and the main set closing tune “White Punks on Dope” (which was sung by his alter-ego Quay Lewd). The attentive crowd shouted requests, bounced around the venue dancing and bopping to the beat and whistled and cheered his every move. Each band member was given his chance to shine. Steen’s guitar solo/interlude was tasty and sweet, Medd’s delivered a cool keyboard solo and Anderson’s bass solo was funky, but it was Prince’s drum solo that brought down the house. The evening ended with the pre-requisite encores—electrifying version of “She’s A Beauty” and “Talk to ya Later (Reprise).”

The five musicians had a blast and played with a raw energy that made it seem as though their lives depended upon it. They transported the audience members back in time to a much more innocent age where satire and performance art not only intersected with rock ‘n’ roll, but did so without a sinister agenda. The wry social commentary/messages were received but without the nastiness that pervades the current political climate. The band members and the audience members clearly had a fantastic evening. The celebration of the Tube’s landmark release was as expected—an artistic rock ‘n’ roll spectacle and outrageous performance featuring contagiously upbeat and fun music.

Photos by Christine Connallon

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