He's still got it all going on...
Forty-nine years old and Jonathan Richman is still singing like a teenage innocent, like his girl just left him for the high school beefcake. Like he spent all night serenading her bedroom window, and now he’s turning to us – his ever-faithful conscience – once again to lick his wounds, sing some tunes and put on a brave face. Or at least a series of weird, contorted, constipated scowls. But not because Jonathan is narky or bitter, oh no. He just feels these songs as much as did back when he was wooing the ’70s NYC punk set, when his hair was a lot curlier and his shirts a lot stripier and his Modern Lovers were watching his back.
Tonight, Jonathan has just got drummer Tommy Larkins by his side. Tommy keeps it simple, like an antiquated beat-box, but with the extrasensory ability to follow Jonathan’s random medleys and impromptu stories. It’s an impressive little partnership. But really it’s all in the guitar. Jonathan plays fast and erratic. He plays Mariachi and surf and country and rock ‘n’ roll and two-chord Velvets chugs and dinky basslines.
The songs flood out so fast it’s impossible to keep track of which tune we’re on. Many of them are improvised, fragmented with bits of dialogue, and some verses are made up on the spot. The twenty/thirty-something audience mouth all the words to ‘Pablo Picas’, ‘Fender Stratocaster’ and ‘Parties in The USA’. They whoop and holler to ‘Velvet Underground’ and ‘Roadrunner’. And when we’re not singing or dancing, we’re laughing ourselves silly at his priceless one-liners. Like ‘Vampire Girls’, where he asks, [I]”Does she cook beans?/Does she cook rice?/Does she do ritual sacrifice?”[/I] Or ‘You Can’t Talk To The Dude’, where he croons nasally, [I]”You can’t talk to the dude/He’s just hanging around/No he don’t taste the food/He’s just shovelling it down.”[/I]
‘I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar’ has all the best lines though, and the best dance routines. He sings: [I]”In the first bar things were just alright/This bar things were Friday night”[/I], and then he throws off his guitar and explains the difference further with his hilarious customised choreography. But that’s Jonathan Richman, pushing the half-century and still dancing, singing, goofing, crying on our shoulder and making us laugh. He’s still got it all going on.