Music fans gathered on Wednesday December 6 in Philadelphia, PA at the City Winery. It was there that new wave legends the Tubes performed a 90 minute set of their tunes. Formed in the early 1970s, the Tubes have been together on/off for five decades. While the show wasn’t without its issues, the Tubes managed to put on a solid show.
The City Winery isn’t your typical venue for a rock concert: it’s a concert venue but it’s also a fancy restaurant. In the venue, the wooden/oak tables and flooring all added to the intimate feeling of the venue. The venue was pretty full, with most audience members looking middle aged, possibly in their 50s. Some people were wearing shirts from previous Tubes tours while others were dressed business casual. No matter which artist you see at any of their locations, the City Winery is certainly a unique concert venue.
The band took to the stage at 7:30 pm, all dressed in business suits and taking their places on the stage. Singer Fee Waybill came out, decked out in an all white suit. For the next hour, the band played a set of nine songs. Prior to the show that night, the Tubes hadn’t been in the Philadelphia area in several years. The band did perform in Atlantic City, NJ in October 2019, which saw the band playing their 1981 classic album The Completion Backward Principle in its entirely alongside other Tubes hits. The setlist for this tour isn’t that much different: in the band’s first set, seven of the ten songs from The Completion Backward Principle were played. While this is not a bad thing, this was a little disappointing for those who may have seen the show from four years ago. Even then, the band played these songs fairly well. Waybill, true to form, had costume changes during a few songs. Waybill changed from outfit to outfit with help from his special nurse (who, in reality, is Waybill’s wife). Waybill wore things ranging from a kimono (“Sushi Girl”), a plain white shirt with rolled up sleeves (“Mr. Hate”) and a leather jacket (“Attack of the 50 Ft Woman”).
Prior to performing their hit “Don’t Want To Wait Anymore,” Waybill dedicated the song to their deceased bandmates Vince Welnick and Rick Anderson. Along with this, a woman named Diana joined the band on stage, providing backing vocals on the song. As guitarist Roger Steen went into an impressive guitar solo, Waybill walked off the stage. Throughout the show, Waybill seemed like he wasn’t comfortable. After the song was over, the band went into a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Trouble.” As the band were playing, keyboardist David Medd went across the stage to get a chair and placed it by the microphone stand. Waybill was brought back out, hobbling and taking a seat in the chair. While it wasn’t officially announced, it seems that Waybill hurt his back. Whether this was from a previous injury or he hurt it during the show is unknown. Like a trooper, Waybill finished “Trouble” before the band debated whether they wanted to play “Mondo Bondage.” Despite Waybill’s condition, the band went into a jaunty rendition of the song. Waybill even put on the bondage mask, which looked silly but the band managed to perform the entire song. After the song, Waybill was helped off stage while the band took an intermission.
Opening up the second set was drummer Prairie Prince, who played an impressive seven minute drum solo. Guitarist Roger Steen came out afterwards and sang lead vocals on two tracks from the band’s self-titled debut album, “Up from the Deep” and “Haloes.” All during this time, Fee Waybill was not onstage. A little after 9 pm, Waybill came back out and sang the band’s anthem “White Punks on Dope” and their 1983 hit “She’s a Beauty.” Traditionally, Waybill dresses up as a fictional glam rock star name Quay Lude during “White Punks on Dope.” Decked out in a wig, a feather boa and overly high-heeled platform shoes, everyone likes it when Quay comes out. This night, however, Waybill was not dressed up as Quay. While one might think this is because of his back injury that night, a YouTube search shows that Waybill isn’t dressing up as Quay too much. Along with Waybill, Diana (the woman who joined the band onstage during the first set) was back onstage, leading everyone in singing “White Punks.” This was confusing for many concert goers, as Diana was never introduced at any point during the show. In all honesty, there was no reason for her to be there. Despite the disappointment and confusion, the band’s second set was still strong.
Seeing the Tubes perform at the City Winery was a nice night out. Still, the show wasn’t exactly great: the setlist was focused too much on the 1980s material. While Waybill should be given major props for sticking it out despite his bad back, it makes you think if the band are fit enough to tour. The show wasn’t exactly organized either, with Diana’s presence adding to the confusion. For those who have seen the Tubes in the last few years and enjoy the theatrical part of the show, you might be disappointed. Even then, the band are in fine form. If you want to simply hear these songs performed live and have never seen the band before, see them while you still can.
1. Talk To Ya Late
2. Sushi Girl
4. Mr. Hate
5. Attack of the 50 Ft Woman
6. Power Tools
7. Don’t Want To Wait Anymore
8. Trouble (Elvis Presley cover)
9. Mondo Bondage
10. Drums (w/ Drum solo)
11. Up from the Deep
13. White Punks on Dope
14. She’s a Beauty
15. Talk To Ya Later (Reprise)
16. Third Stone from the Sun (Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.