Photo Recap: There’s Nothing Quite Like a Jonathan Richman Show

Words by Seth Johnson
Photos by Doug Fellegy

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more unique performer than Jonathan Richman.

Best known for his time fronting legendary proto-punk band the Modern Lovers, Richman may be 66 years old, but his effervescent spirit on stage is closer to that of a child at the play park. Personally, I have always felt a strange connection to Richman and his music. We do share a love for the Velvet Underground (Richman lived on the VU manager’s couch as a youngster), but there’s always been something more to my fascination with the Massachusetts-born musician. As much as he’s a rock ‘n’ roller, he’s also a genuine, contemplative goofball, which I finally was able to experience firsthand when Richman performed at the Hi-Fi this past Tuesday.

Accompanied by longtime drummer Tommy Larkins, Richman had all ears on him from the very first note of his performance, keeping fans emotionally engaged throughout the entirety of his set. As one might expect, Richman is equal parts comedian and musician at his shows, often cracking clever quips in the context of songs. While doing this, however, he also remains vulnerable as well, sharing reflections on life, love and the world we live in.

Right off the bat, Richman made a point of having the audience be a part of his show. After first having the Hi-Fi turn on lights in the crowd, he then bugged them about turning off the TV screens in the bar, before eventually being informed that the TV screens displayed beer that was available on tap. Selections from Richman’s more recent albums surfaced in the beginning of his set, including songs like “Behold the Lilies of the Field” and “Sad Trumpets of Afternoon.” Later on, fan favorites like “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar” and “Old World” also made their way into the show, too. No matter how familiar the song, however, Richman made it breathe a new life live, continually improvising on guitar and vocals. It was ultimately this improvising that gave Richman’s set its highest degree of charm.

To close out his performance, Richman recited a poem, once again defying the expectations of a “modern” rock show. In this very vulnerable instance, he presented himself less as an icon and more as a human. In the end, it’s this fact that would seem to make his shows so refreshingly enthralling.

All of this being said, I can surely say there’s nothing quite like a Jonathan Richman show. Go see him the next time he comes to your town. You won’t regret it.

 

 

Jonathan Richman

 

Summer Green

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