Tuesday, May 11

Inge's report: Demographics --- Vera, Groningen

So Jonathan was in Europe. Be still my beating heart. Looking at the touring schedule I got really excited. England, France, Spain and yes! The Netherlands. Last year I had to fly all the way to Rome because he didn't play my country. This tour he would come to Amsterdam and Groningen.

In March, two more months before I'd be able to see him perform. I couldn't wait that long and Paris is not that far away. The train tickets are real cheap if you buy them well in advance. Besides, the concert would be a week after my birthday, so it could be a nice birthday present. I checked with my family, and of course a few eyebrows were raised (he's coming to Holland, what you need to go to Paris for?), but they were fine with the idea. Jonathan and Paris, a match made in heaven.

I asked a girlfriend along. She had never seen Jonathan in concert; in fact, she didn't know his music at all. I would have to trust on her good taste in music. Driving to Paris on the fifteenth we played several of his cds, and thank God, she liked it! No 12 year friendship would have to end tragically. The hotel was very nice and Paris was enchanting. The day of the concert we strolled through a park, drank rosé on a terrace and made lots of pictures. I wanted to go to the venue Café de la Danse early, afraid we might not be able to find it right away. On our way there we met a very nice old French couple and they asked us to sit down and have a drink with them. We didn't want to be rude so we joined them. And lost track of time (those charming french people!). Just barely on time we arrived at the Café de la Danse. The opening act just started. I didn't care much for the would-be artistic singer with accordion. Maybe she was funny, my French is not good enough to judge. The audience seemed to like her.

Jonathan was great. He played a lot of new songs and seemed really happy to play Paris. My friend brought her professional camera and made some wonderful pictures during the concert. I didn't have to worry about her being bored or not liking the concert so I was dancing and felt mesmerized. At the end of the concert we met two American girls who live in Paris and we all went for a drink.

Back in Holland. Amsterdam, de Melkweg, 2nd of May. The vibe in the audience was again great. Jonathan seemed to be having a great time and so were we. After the concert I managed to give Tommy L. a couple of pictures of Jonathan my friend made in Paris. He promised to have Jonathan sign them for me and would return them to me in Groningen.

That night I was so excited that I decided to go and see the show in Düsseldorf the next day. It's only 200 kilometers so why not? It was a very nice venue, very small and intimate but the audience was so different. They were just standing there, not dancing. It was as if they didn't get the music. They stared at Jonathan as if he was some weird creature from outta space. Laughing at him as he danced. Such a disgrace! A lot of people were obviously drunk, or just not interested, talking loud. Jonathan did "Let her go into the darkness", but he didn't do his routine with the different languages. He didn't talk much between songs, which I always like so much. Before playing "Going to the Plaza" he explained that, when in another country, he's shy to speak English because he's afraid we won't understand. Immediately he follows: "Of course I know people here in Germany and in Holland as well speak English very well, often even better than we do, so I'll tell you a little about the next song." He told us about not liking to live out in the country, because there was no sense of community ("Or, if there was, I was never able to find it").

The crowd that didn't show much enthusiasm during the show, went beserk after Jonathan and Tommy had left the stage. This was no different from Paris or Amsterdam, but this time Jonathan rewarded us with an encore. Was he trying to impress the, before so annoyed (and annoying), audience just to make sure they did like him? He came on stage, already wearing his jacket, and said: "You know, the concert has ended, maybe you all didn't get that. I figured I'll do one more. Wouldn't wanna keep you here waiting forever." He sang about saying goodbye to Rome, not using the microphones and finally winning over the entire audience.

May 5th, Groningen, Vera. Vera publishes a small "newspaper" with the announcements of the concerts. I would like to share with you the article on Jonathan. Of course, this is a translation and my English isn't perfect. Please keep that in mind.

Important people in the music world have to die young
to become infamous. The legend must live on. Degrading
to an almost forgotten greatness from the past is fatal.
Somebody who will not be recognized on the street or in
the supermarket. Or worse, slowly fading away from life
in an old-people's-home, is the worst case scenario for
a rockstar. Starting with Elvis's first single, about
50 years ago, it seems to be a logical order: after
drugs, sex and rock 'n roll, you die early. Elvis, Hendrix,
Lennon and Cobain fit nicely into this picture. But the one
person who does not live by these rules of rock 'n roll, but
who's a real founder anyway, is still alive. This living
legend of punk is once again, with great applause, put on
stage of Vera.

Jonathan Richman, why don't you come in..!

After seeing a documentary about punk venue CBGB's, in
which the viewer was told about the birth of American
punkbands, I wrote down: "Modern Lovers, remember them".
A simple note in one of my notebooks, as if it were some
weak little band from the past, that might some day be
mentioned in an interview with someone. In fact, these
Modern Lovers caused a musical earthquake. Even though
you would never know, reading my little note. How would
I know, this whole punk history took place before I was
born. But they had influenced bands like the Ramones and
the Clash. Bands I did know, since the beginning of the
seventies, long before punk erupted in England. And when
Rotten and friends were being a plague to the royal family
and their government, the men of the Modern Lovers were
nicely active in New Wave. Wasn't it so that members of this
great band were later joining bands like the Talking Heads
and the Cars? Frontman Jonathan Richman went his own way,
with some Country and Reggae kind of music I think. Since a
couple years the never fully understood Richman is concentrating
on Folk and Chanson. Still, he always knows how to surprise
the world with his almost story-telling songs about the simplest
things of life. The polls of Vera from the years that this
romantic soul visited Groningen are clear as a crystal. No
matter what style he did his songs in, he always ended as one
of the first. Some people just know exactly what to do and never
disappoint their fans, no matter what they do. He partly wrote
the music of, and played a role in "There's Something About Mary",
without losing his credibility.

The last time Jonathan played Vera, with Meindert Talma and his
Negroes as an opening act, Richman played with Tommy Larkins.
This time Richman takes this drummer along with him again.
This guy is of course no nitwit either. You could know him,
besides from this last time with Richman, from bands like Giant
Sand, Friends of Dean Martinez and Naked Prey, in which he also
played rhythm. Larkins also visited Vera many times before
he joined Richman on the Vera stage three years ago.

Richman doesn't tour to promote a newly released album. But
with about 19 solo records you have enough material to play an
entire evening without ever repeating yourself. And for 7
euro's you can live such a legendary night. Always fun to brag
about at parties, right?

I'll be seeing you at Vera.

You can argue about the quality of this article. I would say it is at least funny. It didn't help much though to attract the kind of people who were aware of the fact they were about to see a living legend. If that were the case, they would have been a lot more respectful! People were loud and obnoxious: piling up bottles of beer in front of Jonathan on stage, yelling really silly things (I mean, being a little silly at Jonathan's concerts is fine, this was weird), banging on Tommy's drums and talking to each other constantly. There were more decibels coming from behind me than from the stage. Jonathan adapted nicely, not playing any slow songs, except for the thirty second version of "Not in My Name." Unfortunately, unlike in Düsseldorf, he did not talk in between songs. That might have really worked to get the attention of the audience I think. He did do his routine during "Let Her Go into the Darkness," and was rewarded with a great applause. Even though I thought it was not such a good performance. It was done too fast and the translated words were not chosen very well. I've seen him do much better.

I talked to Tommy after the concert and he told me (what I already knew) Jonathan doesn't mind playing difficult audiences. In fact, he rather enjoys it. He and Tommy seemed to be having fun. I like it better though to be in an audience who like Jonathan as much as I do. I got my pictures back from Tommy. Signed. Great! I've always been too shy to ask Jonathanfor an autograph.

Jonathan and Tommy are in Sweden now, too far away for me to go and see them again. Maybe this fall they will return to Europe. I will have to be patient. In the meantime let's all hope the new album will be as wonderful as the new songs, performed on stage, promised it to be.


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