Lovers Lane
In The Flesh

Live Review and Photo Gallery: The Tubes at Arcada Theatre • St. Charles

| November 30, 2023


The Tubes


The Tubes

Arcada Theatre

St. Charles, IL

November 29, 2023

Review by Jeff Elbel. Photos by Ed Spinelli.

Veteran art rockers the Tubes made their third visit to the Arcada Theatre on Wednesday night, playing a set that touched on popular favorites and deep tracks alike. The show began with a run through side one of 1981’s The Completion Backward Principle, beginning with the catchy pop-rock blast of “Talk To Ya Later.” Theatrically-minded singer Fee Waybill changed portions of his outfit for practically every song, including appearing in a straitjacket and doing an escape routine during the bracing “Mr. Hate.” 

The show was not flawless, but the audience extended ample goodwill, and the band played with a sense of fun. Waybill possesses one of rock’s most distinctive, supple, and powerful voices, but he struggled on Wednesday when singing early setlist entries, including the otherwise haunting “Amnesia” and power ballad “I Don’t Want to Wait Anymore.” He gathered strength as the evening progressed, and the windup of signature fare, including the brash anthem “White Punks on Dope” and 1983 top-ten chart hit “She’s a Beauty,” was in fine character while joined by enthusiastic singing from the audience on its feet.

“I Don’t Want to Wait Anymore” was dedicated to late Tubes keyboardist and co-writer Vince Welnick and to late bassist Rick Anderson, who passed in December 2022. Waybill also extended the sentiment to the audience for any memories of lost loved ones. Guitarist Roger Steen played an emotive, arena-ready guitar solo. Steen was in top form throughout the evening, playing taut funk, soaring melodies, gritty spy riffs, snarling punk, jazz figures, and heady prog passages.

Bassist Atom Ellis played nimble and funky bass during “Tip of My Tongue,” accompanied by Dave Medd’s brassy keyboard solo. Drummer Prairie Prince played with power and precision during a dazzling drum solo and songs, including “A Matter of Pride” and a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Trouble.” Waybill performed the latter song in a leather jacket and pants, stripping to the pants and a studded mask for “Mondo Bondage.”

Waybill engaged the audience with quips and anecdotes related to many songs. “Power Tools” was accompanied by a PSA in favor of easily recyclable metal bottles over plastic ones. 

“I’ve got a story for you,” Waybill said while producing a copy of Scientific American magazine and sitting to read from an article about early humans ostensibly. “It says that the women were the hunters and the gatherers, while the men hung around the cave and smoked pot all day.” The band then performed “Wild Women of Wongo,” during which Waybill shed his pinstripe suit to reveal a leopard print loincloth/onesie. 

Waybill exited the stage and left Steen to lead “Up From the Deep” and “Haloes” from the Tubes’ debut album. As Ellis erected a comically tall microphone stand, many attendees knew it was time for the entrance of Waybill in character as Quay Lewd. Although Waybill donned his feather boa, shaggy blond wig, mirrored sunglasses spelling “QUAY,” and stuffed a whiskey bottle down his spandex pants, he made a show of rejecting his dangerously high silver platform boots. At 73, it was a reasonable adjustment to make and done with humor. The boots were left on stage as if making their appearance as a guest star. 

The show stalled for a moment as Waybill exited again for longer than anticipated. The remaining band members did a bit of improvisational playing, and Ellis told a pair of his backstage jokes. After Waybill re-emerged and the band charged through “She’s a Beauty,” the Tubes played a reprise of “Talk to Ya Later,” took their bows, and headed to the merch table to greet any fans who wanted to say hello to their heroes. It was a long line full of smiling faces.

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