Thursday, October 26

an american in london

I staggered into Jonathan Richman's Union Chapel show in Islington rather late and in my usual state of disarray having missed the previous night in Cambridge due to getting lost and going round in circles for hours. Andrew and Dom already described the evening admirably though it seemed there were probably more like 200 people in the building, which number still filled all the pews.

Having seen Jonathan in different settings, indoors and out, I think he draws his energy not only from the composition of the crowd and his interaction with it (which is why he loves to see people dancing), but also from inhabiting a specific physical and acoustic space. This space is not necessarily from any particular type of building, but rather one that forms like a cozy bubble enclosing him and his enraptured audience into a collective consciousness when conditions are right.

Nevertheless some of his songs are like intimate petitions or prayers, and the church venue seemed appropriate somehow, seemingly investing his performance with a purity of focus that may be diluted in a more rockin' atmosphere. There are fleeting moments when his singing takes flight even when his voice is reedy (or maybe especially then?), when his heart is laid bare and you can sense his vibrating soul. . . . .or perhaps it is that he has made you feel your own.

I would have liked to hear him do Harpo in a church but the songs he did perform were lovely to hear (and to see).

I didn't want to use the flash so these pictures are blurry. Sorry! Still, it's plain to see that Jonathan Richman's magic endures.

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