Sunday, February 04, 2007

Jonathan Richman at Knitting Factory

Jonathan Richman gets the Jere stamp of approval. For having all the qualities of an innocent schoolboy despite being over a half-century old, for not getting caught up in that whole drugs thing despite being, technically, a part of the "music industry," and for writing probably hundreds of songs, each more brilliant than the next.

Richman played the third of four shows last night at the Knitting Factory to an attentive, appreciative, and less-Williamsburgy-than-I-expected (woohoo!) crowd. You'd never have known he'd done the exact same thing at the same place the previous two nights. The man loves to play and loves to entertain people. And loves to love us, as he pointed to us while singing his tune "Not So Much to be Loved as To Love." When we applauded, he said, "Don't applaud me, applaud St. Francis of Assisi, because that's where I stole that from."

You know how at some shows, everyone just stands there, maybe slightly moving their heads to the beat, and then politely claps? Especially in New York? Well, if you want the opposite of that, go see Jon Richman. While he plays his acoustic guitar--accompanied by drummer Tommy Larkins--he's really interacting with you, talking to you between and even during songs. He tells jokes, he breaks out other instruments, he dances and does little guitar flips. He'll sing off-mic, and not like Darby Crash--he'll actually purposely step away from the mic to sing to you almost he's breaking the wall between performer and audience. And he does all this with a big smile on face as if nothing could ever be better than this moment. Even during the sad numbers, he'll talk to you between lines to let you know that everything's gonna be okay. A really unique dude.

"Springtime in New York" got plenty of cheers, as he'd insert a city place name and then change it to somewhere else if it didn't sound right.

He pulled out the classic "Pablo Picasso," the guy who never "got called an asshole." That's gotta be one of the best rhymes in music history. And he really tries to rhyme it live: "Pablo Picasso never got called ass'ho'."

He did a funny tune about love and hate. And sometimes you get one, sometimes you get the other, and sometimes you get them "side by side." There was a great line on that same theme which something about how you get something good, or you get shite, or you get them both on the same plate.

At one point he told us how he grew up around Boston (HUGE cheers for the Boston and New England mentions--if there's one thing I've learned about New Yorkers, it's that they're all from Boston), and he moved to New York when he was 19, and was a Wall Street delivery boy, before working at Max's Kansas City, before heading back up to Boston. He also talked about how he tried country life, but it was all satellite dishes and SUVs. The guy really needs to be around people, doing things. Althoug he has written a song in the past about how he likes the city and the country. Like me, he's a dude who appreciates all kinds of things, many of which a lot of people wouldn't give a second thought to, like weather and insects and cities and towns and stuff.

Other tunes I can remember were "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar," "Give Paris One More Chance," "My Baby Love Love Loves Me," some Spanish songs, and one about a slightly older girl he fell for as an awkward teen. He also did some songs with the two guys from Spain who opened the show, Kiko Veneno and Raul Rodriguez, who were both great as well.

The highlight among highlights, though, was "Let Her Go into the Darkness." It's about a guy whose girlfriend goes back to her ex, and he tries to tell her that the dude's on drugs. And Jonathan himself is trying to tell the guy to just let her go. Then he breaks into his impression of the girl in a high-pitched voice: "Leave me alone, I don't need you, I can do what I want, I don't care if he pushes drugs, he's better in bed than you..." Then Richman says, "Let's see how a French guy would handle it, they're usually more suave then we Americans." And he proceeds to do the same conversation between the guy and the girl in French, complete with squealing girl impression. Then the crowd started shouting out countries, and Jonathan would repeat the conversation in each language. It was amazing. He did Italian, Spanish, even Hebrew. It was great recognizing the word "drugs" in each language.

Of course, you had some dumber audience members saying "What's he saying?", not realizing it was the same conversation over and over. I'm talking about the two girls in front of me, who were full of "Woo!"s, and did that shoulder dance, which they probably do to the more upbeat Dave Matthews tunes.

This last part is for my mom, whose recent attempt to give Jon Stewart her book as a gift was thwarted. As Richman left the stage to thunderous applause from the fairly tiny but packed room, someone in the front handed him a book. Like Stewart, this Jonathan, also asked, "Did you write this?" Only Richman, upon realizing he was getting a gift from the author, got this look on his face like "Oh my god...for me?" And he profusely thanked the person, thanked the crowd, who was still going nuts and then looked down at the author for one more "thank you."

I dragged Chan to this show, and I think he came out a new man. As we walked back to the 6, I heard a fellow concert-goer saying to his buddy, "Yeah, but what was he saying in French?" Oy.

photo courtesy Google images search, page 3. Uh, I mean,

You inspired me to listen to Jonathan at the gym today during my workout.

Did he play "She Cracked"? I'm guessing there's less than a 1% chance that he did. I love that song.
Glad I could help America stay in shape. Definitely no on SC. I did just see a weird animated video someone made for it on YouTube, though.
Thanks for the review - I meant to be there one night, but it just didn't happen this time. I linked to your review at
You're welcome. Thanks for the link. Too bad you couldn't see Richman...
Great show review - I was there that night, too! Does anyone out there know the name of the song about the older girl? That's one I want to own.
I recently made a CD of all of Jonathan Richman's songs about Boston for a friend from Boston who is now exiled in L.A.
Go Sox!
Thanks. Yeah, I wonder what that song's called. You seem to have a pretty cool zine, there.

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Location: Rhode Island, United States