Monday, October 30
2 NovemberBCN-mp7. Music in processDebate + concert: BCN sound: NOW
BCN-mp7 comprises seven sessions of creation, mix and debate about contemporary popular music. The cycle is made up of talks devoted to open critical reflection on the current music scene and concerts that aim to establish new fusions and frictions between the various musical genres.
2 November. Session seven: BCN sound: NOW7.30 p.m. Discussion with Albert Guijarro, Martí Perramon and Javi Zarco. Moderator: Ramon Faura.9.30 p.m. Concert with Jonathan Richman and Muchachito. Guest artist: Kiko Veneno
Reality and myth of the Barcelona sound. Creative intensity versus the disconnected scene. Internal perception and external projection. Underlying cultural policies. Infrastructures and professionalization. Towards a new legal framework. Local scene/global scene. A city that's (always) ready.
Admission price 2.50 € / Concessions for students, senior citizens and the unwaged 2 €; Free admission for Friends of the CCCB.
Advance sales at the ticket desk of the CCCB and from Tel-Entrada (902 10 12 12 and www.telentrada.com)
(As usual - If you are intending to go check the arrangements with the venue)
More info can be found at:
In 2000 I gave a copy of ¡Jonathan, Te Vas A Emocionar! to a Spanish friend of mine and her sister. I have to say that they didn’t get very far with this despite being impressed that an English speaker had recorded an album in Spanish. I’m not what they were expecting but it would be fair to say that it wasn’t Jonathan singing dodgy Spanish rhymes about Chewing Gum Wrappers. Anyway, as far as I know the CD has lain untouched since that first listen and my love of Jonathan has become something of a joke. When she moved back home to Madrid a few years ago I promised her that the next time Jonathan played in Madrid that I would take her to see him so I was very happy when the tour dates were released and I saw he was playing there.
Phone calls, text messages and emails were sent and after a lack of enthusiasm my friend eventually ordered the tickets and began to prepare herself for a night of tedium and songs about Chewing Gum Wrappers. I booked my flights and a day off work and on Friday morning boarded a plane at Heathrow off on my way to Madrid.
The Circulo De Bellas Artes is a beautiful building spread over (at least) 5 floors. A web site I found says that it is decked out in 1920s décor. Now, truth be told, I don’t know 1920s décor from a hole in the ground but this is a wonderful building with different events on each floor. The floor on which Jonathan was playing (the fourth) was reached by a huge double staircase made of marble or stone and all the windows had very expensive looking, heavy curtains. The room it’s self had a semi circle of pillars towards the back and the whole place seemed to be decked out in marble.
On the ground floor there was a bar/restaurant but unfortunately we arrived a little late to visit there but there was a bar in the concert room. As I didn’t buy a round in there I can’t say how much a beer cost but the normal price for a half pint beer was around the 1.80 Euro mark. The concert hall was filled with Director style canvass chairs and when I arrived all the best seats had a “Reserved” notice on them and were still empty until the second that Jonathan took to the stage.
Luckily, my Spanish friend had reserved the tickets a few weeks ago as the place was full to overflowing by the time Jonathan appeared slightly after 10pm. Apparently Spanish people are notorious for turning up late to any show but either they made an exception for Jonathan or that view is not entirely correct.
Jonathan had on what looked like a new paisley style shirt and was full of energy and passion from the moment he appeared; luckily it looked like he is over the flu type illness that he suffered from earlier in the tour. I don’t think I have ever seen him in such a boisterous and playful mood. We were treated to a few Spanish songs which I have never heard before along with several of the established Spanish songs. All his talk between songs (and there was plenty of that) was in Spanish (he only speaks in French when he plays in France too which I think is very impressive.) Along with the Spanish songs we were treated to a regular set list of all the favourites. I will post the full set list later.
We got the full version of “Let her go” with the stories told in English, French, Spanish, Hebrew and Italian. During the English version he actually said the “F” word which I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say before. As I recall there were two encores although the first one he didn’t actually leave the stage. A group of people at the front were doing the conga, the rest of us were shouting and screaming for more with Jonathan giving the biggest grin I have ever seen. At the end he signalled to Tommy that they had finished and off they went for the last time leaving the audience going crazy.
A few minutes later the lights came on and several hundred people groaned in disappointment. We had been treated to 90 minutes of some of the best Jonathan I have ever seen and he could have played 10 hours and we would still have been disappointed to see him go. Even my friend was impressed, I’m not sure that she will be asking for the Jonathan back catalogue but that doesn’t matter. The trip was so worth it for all the obvious reasons but especially to see my friends thoughts on Jonathan change so drastically after just ninety minutes.
Roll on the next tour!
Friday, October 27
Thursday, October 26
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.
Wednesday, October 25
My story starts the day before, whilst Saturday shopping in Cambridge. Strolling through Christ’s Pieces I happened to glance at a tree (hmmm…) and there pinned was a flyer for The Stripe @ The Junction –“Jonathan Richman 15th Oct” – I had to look at it more than once before it finally sunk in. I think I uttered out loud some suitable expletive of disbelief!! I check the local gig listings quite regularly but somehow had managed to miss this. I often check the national gig listings looking for Jonathan’s gigs as I know he is a regular visitor, but here he was on my own doorstep.
The Junction is a fairly recent purpose built venue, definitely not a church this time, holding approx 850 on a live music night. I arrived quite early probably about 7:30, it taking a while before people started to come in. The Stripe is sponsored by wait for it….Red Stripe (duhhh), unfortunately such association is not reflected by the price – a pint of Red Stripe coming in at £3.10!!
From the day I first bought “The Modern Lovers“ back in ‘77 I have always loved Jonathan and his music (you can’t separate them – oh no!), and my anticipation was running high. I think I knew what to expect. Although I hadn’t kept up with Jonathan during the nineties, (for which I apologise – what was I thinking of!!!) I had started to hear more about him lately, an appearance on Later with Jools Holland a couple of years ago , Something about Mary etc. had re-ignited my interest. It was like meeting up with an old friend - Hi how are you - what have you been doing – where have you been etc.
Support act notwithstanding it was about 9:00pm before Tommy and Jonathan came on. Straight over to the mic. and immediately into Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow if I remember correctly. I perhaps at this point should mention that this was my first ever Jonathan Richman gig, and I was not prepared for what happened next……. I started to smile, which I kind of had expected, but that smile changed quite rapidly into a grin; I then entered into a state of complete joy identified by the biggest idiot grin that ever was. It was then that I noticed several others sporting the same recently-banjoed look. So this was the “Jonathan Effect”.
Next up (I think) was “Eygptian Reggae”, but a couple of bars in Jonathan stopped and asked whether it was true that this was currently being used over here in the UK in a telly ad. Everyone shouted back: “Yeah for a cereal”, then Jonathan asked :”Which one” - audience answer “Weetabix!”. He then said that weetabix was good and that he liked it, before saying that he “sure don’t remember giving permission for them to use it!! - I’ll have to have a few words with those guys”. Other songs followed some familiar to me some not. But all completely enjoyable.
It seemed that Tommy’s kit and Jonathan’s mic stand had been positioned as close to the front of the stage as possible, and the barrier which is normally between the audience and the stage was absent. I don’t know if that was specifically for this gig or not, but it did give a real sense of closeness and warmth. I don’t suppose there is much call for moshpit diving at a Jonathan Richman concert! This closeness, both actual and perceived, made it seem all the more personal, as if he was performing in your own house. Crowd swaying & bopping along, joining in on the choruses where they could – I was quite unprepared for the Ding-Ding during “Ice Cream Man”.
Others songs were in no particular order:
He Gave Us The Wine To Taste It
Springtime in New York
Give Paris One More Chance
Partners in Crime
At least those are the only ones I can recall and know the names of!!
All good things come to pass however and it was over almost as soon as it started – or so it seemed – there was no encore as such, “lets do one more* said Jonathan provoking not surprisingly cries of “Roadrunner”, plus one quite vociferous one of ”Abominable Snowman”.
The “one more” became two, but by now it was apparent that Jonathan’s voice was starting to suffer. Up till then there was no sign of the worsened voice apparent at the later gigs (yeah I’m writing this in a Tardis). Some inspired bouts of “dancing” ensued throughout the concert, with the occasional pause between strummin’ an’ dancin’ an’ singin’ for Jonathan to take a swig from his flask. Other than his voice failing a little towards the end it was a pretty lively affair, up with, it seems, the earlier Glasgow and Newcastle gigs! One thing that came home to me was how fine a guitarist he really is. OK, not in the traditional sense that we come to expect in a “rock“ act, but then i’m not a traditionalist in any sense, anyway. It’s a sort of flamenco/rock hybrid that works so well – at least for Jonathans music. Is it this style of playing that forms Jonathan’s music as it stands now, or is vice versa. Certainly listening to some of the old songs over the weekend has made me appreciate his playing more than I did before.
Finally over and after a good portion of shouts for more, unsurprisingly to no avail, the house lights came up. I popped to the loo (I’m sure you wanted to know that) and scuttled outside more than satisfied with my lot. However there was more to come. As I strolled (I do a lot of that) outside down by the side of the venue, I spotted a this guy seemingly clutching a Spanish guitar looking a little lost and accosting passers-by. Sure enough on his own, no entourage , no Tommy ,no roadies or helpers, nothing, there was Jonathan, more or less just standing in the road, shaking hands and greeting folk. I nipped over sharpish and breathlessly shook hands and uttered/spluttered quite unintelligibly at him. It then became apparent just how bad his voice had become as he could barely speak, or maybe he was wondering who the gibbering idiot was speaking to him in an unknown tongue (but later found out to be ancient moronic) was exactly. At that point a people carrier pulled up containing some fellow fans who were themselves leaving and had spotted him, a small bout of camera flashing ensued. Guitar propped up against the car bonnet, signing autographs. As the kind guy who offered to take Jonathan’s and myself’s picture with my camera, pressed the shutter release , I prayed to the lord above that I had remembered to switch the flash on…... I had!! I think I walked home that night about two feet above the pavement.
Its quite probable that this was the highlight of my year (OK I don’t get out much), so sorry if I’ve waffled on a bit. I spent the weekend trying to convert family and friends to Jonathan but to no avail – ah well! In the immortal words of the great god like genius, Mark E. Smith - “He is not appreciated”.
Tuesday, October 24
As has been said this was a full on church, the only non church thing about it was the bar (but it’s many years since I was in a church so maybe they all have bars these days.) Anyway, Red Stripe was £2.50 a can which I thought was pretty good, I have paid almost double that at some places and been happy enough.
The strange thing was that the whole of the audience was seated in the pews – no standing (until the end anyway) and no dancing or drinking. Personally, this wasn’t my favorite venue, after all, what is a Jonathan show without a little bit of dancing and cheering. As it turned out things weren’t so strange because the state of Jonathan’s throat was so bad that he sang very quietly anyway with his amp turned right down and Tommy playing very gently.
Throughout the show Jonathan was sipping on some kind of medicine to ease his throat but he really didn’t look too well at all. I think the sound man may have been sneaking the volume up once or twice but when it was at the level Jonathan wanted this was, by a long way, the quietest show I have ever been to. I was sat next to a guy who was telling me that his 15 year old son had found his old Jonathan records and had been playing them a lot and it was impressive to see these two generations sat silence watching him.
The show lasted the usual 75ish minutes; I really wish he would play longer but at least the ticket prices are still sensible and won’t ever reach the madness of the Madonna prices. OK, please don’t shoot me for saying this but am I alone in thinking that it’s maybe time for a bit of a change in his show? Over the last 13 years I have seen him solo, with a band and obviously with Tommy. I think the first show I saw with Jonathan and Tommy was at The Jazz Café in Camden in 1999 and it was superb. It remained superb for the next few years but this time I got the feeling that I would have liked a change. Maybe it was the venue or maybe it was the fact that Jonathan was feeling under the weather or maybe it’s just me but something different would have been good.
Anyway, because of the early start of the show I think I was on the tube by 10pm and already wondering about the next night’s show in Paris.
I arrived at the Parc De La Villette, a beautiful green area about a fifteen minute metro ride from the Gare De Nord. We found the venue easily enough but there seemed to be several venues in the park along with (what I think was called) “Village of Music.” I imagine the whole area is superb in summer, even on a cold Tuesday night the pathways were full.
Jacques has given a wonderful review so I won’t repeat too much here. The difference between the London show was huge. Although, Jonathan was still pretty ill he looked a lot better and sang with a lot more volume and energy than we had see the night before. We were lucky enough to get an encore. I think, along with Jonathan feeling slightly better, Le Trabendo was a lot better venue than the Union Chapel but maybe that is my personal choice. For the record a can of Kronnenbourg 1664 was 4 euro.
Jonathan had on a buttoned up green shirt, I’m not sure if it was the same green shirt worn in London the previous night (which was open with a white t-shirt) and black jeans. If I saw his shoes then I have forgotten.
So, that’s two more Jonathan shows, not the best ever but I will happily put that down to his health. There is something so good about seeing him play that I am amazed that nobody has heard of him. To most people he will only ever be the bloke from There’s something about Mary but we know better. I still dream about seeing him play for two and a half hours with a full band but until then I will make do with him, a guitar and Tommy.
Sunday, October 22
I waited outside with lots of people who eventually left one by one. Only a couple of students and the three same giggling girls from the very beginning , the ones carrying the big Warhol banana, remained after a while. We saw the roadies moving the equipment to a van and had been there for another 20 minutes when Tommy came out. I went to meet him and he recognised me. We talked about the show, about Tucson, about common friends and I asked him if there was a chance to meet Jonathan. Tom said that Jonathan having this real problems with his voice does not go to speak with people on this tour. So I handed him the Velvet Underground CDr and explained him what it was about. I asked him to give it to Jonathan..he agreed and said this was a very interesting item which they would listen to very seriously. Then Tom told me he had to go to look for the cab he had ordered for him and Jonathan. At that moment Jonathan came out and the giggling girls went to him wanting to take pictures, which Jonathan kindly agreed to do..
I went by and could hardly hear him , he was kinda whispering, "sorry no voice anymore".. Tommy came back saying the cab was waiting, I met Jonathan then he greeted me and I walked with him towards the cab, I told him about the VU CD and he stopped walking, put his guitar case on the ground and shook my hand very warmly saying "merci, merci beaucoup, you cannot imagine how I am going to enjoy this, this is incredible". The smile he had on his face , his radiating eyes definitively made my day. We resumed our walking to the cab and after having thanked me again asked Tommy about the CDr which the drummer was still clutching as the Holy Grail..
Jonathan left me after having patted me on the shoulder, smiling..
Friday, October 20
Some songs I remember:-
He Gave Us The Wine To Taste It - very appropriate opener given the surroundings
Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow
Springtime in New York
Let Her Go Into the Darkness
Vampire Girl (Does she cook beans? Does she cook rice? Does she do ritual sacrifice?) - I too am intrigued!
You Must Ask The Heart
Give Paris One More Chance - Hurrah!
G-I-R-L-F-R-E-N - with great spoken intro about the attraction of college girls to an adolescent JoJo
Vincent Van Gogh
Not So Much To Be Loved As To Love
A few Spanish songs too - the funny thing being how JoJo often squeezed in the English translations as he sang.Also, a couple of cowbell jives at various points during songs, drawing whoops with each lunge and high kick move.
Ms Y from a couple of weeks ago: "After the show we asked mr. r. to sign our super-cool posters. we told him that our friend andrew would be seeing him during the england tour, and asked that he keep vincent v. in the set list. he nodded vigourously."Well, Jonathan asked if he had done this one yet, and said he was going to finish with it. I took that as a virtual dedication - about the closest I'm likely to get anyway. So, Thanks! Then as the last couple of notes were being played, he said, 'Wait, there's one more we should do' and played Not So Much To Be Loved As To Love, largely in front of the mic. A nice way to finish. Despite his health problems, he looked glad to be there.
There was extended, and I mean very extended, clapping, stamping, cheering once he had made his exit, but there was no encore. I think he is having to save himself to get through this tour, as well as being known for not really doing encores. He had started early, and finished at 10, but this suited me as I had to get back south-west from north London. The Victoria Line tube was full of love, and that doesn't happen very often.
Just seeing JoJo let the guitar drop to his side, switch on the doe eyes, and make that little hip swivel is one of those moments to store away. Whenever you're having a bad time, remembering that is guaranteed to raise a smile.I have been touched by greatness again, and touched in my heart. Godspeed JoJo!
(Posted with Andrews permission - Thanks!)
Thursday, October 19
Wednesday, October 18
first here is OLD WORLD
On 17th of October , Jonathan was playing in Paris in a place called "the Trabendo", which is located in Le Parc de la Villette, NorthEast side of the city, it is a kinda club built in what you would call a 21st century folie, in reference to folies which were fashionable in gardens during the XVIIIth century like the fake Greek temple you can see at Stourhead Gardens for instance.
The Trabendo is able to welcome about 700 people but when I came there at 7pm on Tuesday evening there were only six of us waiting outside, one was a girl giving away flyers for some other shows, the other one was a guy selling tickets for the Jonathan show at a 30% discount rate, though we all had at that point our tickets paid full price, then there were three girls giggling and having brought a large Warhol banana (see Velvet Underground first LP) stuffed like a Teddy bear, another guy and me. We were still the same number around 7:30 and the show was due to start at 8pm.
Around 7:45, about 30 people were around me, a majority of young students, smoking like Hell fire, and a few old timers, then the doors opened. Inside it looked a bit like a semi posh club with fancy graffitis on the walls.
I went straight to the stage on the right side. A support act selected by Jonathan started the show, they were called Sandes Martelez (not so sure about the name), one singer, one guitar player and a girl rocking an acoustic bass. They did a very interesting set of cool Cuban music mixed with neurotic El paso rock, something like Calexico meeting rockabilly. While they were playing the room got filled up. Next to me a young couple of students, the girl looking very young and asking her friend if that was the place where they would come to see the Flaming Lips, and how old was Jonathan (he must be around 40 answered the guy..). I heard she had not a clue about Jonathan and his music but she definitely was showing a piece of cleavage..you know..yes that sort of cleavage which does not leave anything to imagination, the real stuff.
And all those young guys around me were still chain smoking cigarettes.. even though a poster on the wall was announcing that people were invited not to smoke to the artist's request. Poor Jonathan with his aching throat would have to go through it stoically without complaining but I guess he could not play more than 75 minutes for that reason too. Jonathan entered the stage smiling around 9 pm , wearing a greenish shirt , a moustache, Wrangler jeans and black gym slippers called here "rythmiques" (excuse my French). he started with this new song , "Celestial" which I liked a lot and followed by "Her mystery.." . He was often looking in my direction but I found out he was more like looking more right , I turned my head and saw that the young creature nearby was making some show of her cleavage, Tommy from the other side also noticed at some moment and leered. But it did not distract the true professionals we had fronting us more than a couple of times. Maybe it will work better with the Flaming Loops, I mean boobs..
"Old world", "girlfren" Jonathan did a few of those Modern lovers songs from the very first album. All of them have turned out to be classics nowadays. Jonathan was dancing a lot, Tommy using these kind of breaks to entertain us with some drumming assault. It was obvious that the show was done in a way Jonathan would manage to relax his throat by dancing, use those cowbells and other various percussion instruments (the hilarious "no gazoline reggae") while Tommy would keep the beat steady and enjoying himself.
We were treated with several new songs, some in French with rather surrealistic lyrics, "silence" was joyful nonsense, "le tourbillon de poussiere" was describing a dust whirl connected to lovers passing by. I mentionned "Celestial", there was also "Partners in crime" which Jonathan seems really to like. The audience favourites were "egyptian reggae" and the mandatory "Lesbian bar" which I am personnally a bit fed up with.
After having been through a couple more songs including "in che mondo viviamo", Jonathan said he had been singing in French, English, Spanish and Italian, he asked what should he do next. To the request of a lady he agreed to keep English and then asked what he should sing.. of course everyone was screaming for his favourite song, on my right they were yelling "ice scream man", I heard "new England", "she cracked" so I came up with "roadrunner" because I never saw Jonathan perform it live, this brought other chaps to ask for the same song. But Jonathan was acting as if he could not hear the requests and keep on asking what we requested .. finally he faked having heard something and started "hospital" it was some highlight of the evening for me specially that he went directly into "Pablo Picasso afterwards, that was magic.
He had sung "girlfren" earlier , introducing it in French and explaining how demure and innocent he was at 17 ("looking even younger") and his failures to attract the attention of girsl, students who smoked Welsh cigarettes because in the US something coming from Wales was supposed to be very sophisticated. It was hilarious.
I remember the last song to be "let her go into the darkness" with the French and Italian sequels, we did not get the full multilingual treatment, but I noticed that Jonathan's voice was sort of getting away.
He did an encore because the audience really asked for it (they asked for more during about 10 minutes later but this did not work). When he thanked everybody, it was clear to me that he was losing his voice and would not come back.
Then the doors were opened and people invited to leave. I stayed, lots of people still screaming "Jonathan come back" and smoking like chimneys. As always after 10 more minutes the people started to go out .. I was trying to avoid the bouncers keeping a cool and collected attitude of someone important ready for an appointment. One of the bouncers came to me asking me to go out of the room, I started to say it was important for me to meet Jonathan, that I was co-webmaster of his webzine.. nothing worked. This bouncer had been neatly selected, huge, black, stupid with braincells where you could see that there was a missing light in or two of the cells but certainly an expert in martial arts. I moved to a group of what looked like Happy few with backstage passes. But even they got annoyed by the black bouncer, "you have to get out NOW", the backstage passes carriers sort of complained, one was a producer, the other one a record executive, some girlfriends, they called the manager of the Trabendo who said to the bouncer , "him, him , him, her, her , him" its Ok.. I was in the middle of the group and thought I was safe. Except that one more light must have ben switched on in the bouncer's head and he asked to see my pass, I handled him my professional badge just pretending to feel relaxed. He smiled and with a well trained movement throwed me out of the Trabendo.
I waited outside because I was determined to meet Jonathan.(to be continued)
Here are Hospital and Pablo Picasso
Just some comments, it was a very good and lively show, Jonathan being in great shape except fo his voice at the end of the concert. When I met him later, he could only whisper...
The concert lasted 75 minutes , one encore. here is the list of the songs we heard, order not guaranteed, I was happy to hear so many old Modern Lovers tunes.
Celestial -new song-
Her mystery not of high heels...
Springtime in NY
Silence -new song in French-
The whorehouse song in Spanish
Le tourbillon de poussiere -new song in French-
No gazoline reggae -new song-
In che mondo viviamo
Partners in crime -new song-
Let her go into darkness
Encore : My baby loves me
Tuesday, October 17
Sunday, October 15
Friday 13th October 2006,
All Saints Church, Newcastle
When I first heard that Jonathan was going to be playing in an old church in Newcastle, I did wonder how that would be. I had visions of him being at the front of the aisle with us in the audience all lined up watching him in narrow pews: of course with no room to dance. Or maybe it would be in a dusty old church hall, straight after the boy scouts or yoga group had finished? Thankfully it turned out to be neither, and in fact was rather lovely.
All Saints Church is an 1796 “elliptical” Church, quite a significant one too apparently, and right in the centre of Newcastle. We all gathered at first in the little circular entrance hall, buying pints of beer and sitting on the steps of the grandest baptismal font I have ever seen, until at last they opened the doors and let us in the church proper.
And what a surprise, what a quirky, lovely arrangement of space it was in there! I’m not too well up on ecclesiastical terms, so bear with me, but the room itself was circular with a kind of stage to the front with a little railing all round it, nicely lit as if for a nativity play or harvest festival. At head height, on either side of the stage, statues of Jesus and Mary stood in little alcoves, their arms outstretched. In front of this, a fine wooden floor of quite generous size, and beyond that, in a grand sweeping circle, all around the edges of the room, about seven or eight rows of mahogany pews, all sectioned off into little gated stalls. A stunning place by any standards.
Jonathan loved this room’s acoustics, and commented on how good the sound was in there – we all know how much this kind of thing matters to him, so I think it definitely put him in a good mood from the outset!
First up though was the support act, singer/guitarist Elaine Palmer. Her voice was sweet and clear, and put one in mind sometimes of Melanie, other times of the Cowboy Junkies. There was just something about that venue that let her voice carry and fill the space quite beautifully. The audience listened to her set in hushed, rapt attention, and every song was warmly applauded.
When Jonathan and Tommy arrived, they played for about one minute to an empty dance floor, save one brave soul who was determined to dance. The rest us stayed put in our little gated stalls. Then a couple of people crept onto the dance floor and sat down.
“Hey, c’mon” said Jonathan “I’m glad to see you on the dance floor, but you don’t have to sit down, you know – I would much rather you stood up!” With that a huge cheer went up and about 80 per cent of the audience at once ran onto the dance floor –
and from that moment on it was like the concert had started properly.
Jonathan did a fine selection of old and new stuff: “Let her go into the Darkness”, “Her mystery (not of high heels)”, “Egyptian Reggae”, “He gave us the wine to taste it”, “I was dancing in the Lesbian Bar” (this one went down an absolute STORM for some reason – and was by far the audience’s favourite) “Old World” (but with slightly different lyrics) and also some newer ones (“Celestiale?” “Partners in Crime?”) which the audience seemed to appreciate just as much as the more familiar stuff.
The lighting in the room was quite lovely, and definitely deserves a mention. When Jonathan was doing his quirky dancing, or shaking his cow-bells, if he moved to the front of the stage he cast 20 foot high shadows of himself to either side of the wall – Dancing Jonathans in triplicate!
At the end of the show, Jonathan bid the crowd farewell and departed the room. For some reason, this crowd seemed to have no idea that Jonathan rarely does encores, and to be honest I think he had enjoyed the set so much he didn’t keep them waiting, but came back on stage pretty much straight away.
What followed was rather special. He played one song – not a bright, up-beat crowd-pleaser, not a safe old favourite. He played a song that I’m guessing not one person in the hall had ever heard before – an achingly well crafted, intensely personal account of his own mother’s death “As my mother lay dying.” He sang it quietly, so we all had to stand still and listen if we were to hear it properly. And listen we did; you could have heard a pin drop. After that, there was no need for any further songs.
It seemed like one of those moments where Jonathan is truly bold, truly unafraid to bare his soul, to commune with his audience. He still maintains that ability to surprise and delight, to throw the unexpected right at you from nowhere. This is one of the reasons why a live Jonathan Richman concert remains one of life’s great and particular pleasures, and why, one night on, I am already looking forward to the next one!
Thursday, October 5
Our dog is getting older now
Has trouble coming up the stairs
You gotta help him sometimes
Because his back legs, they wobble
Our dog is getting older now
We make him dog beds everywhere
You gotta help him stand
So he doesn't topple
He's a pit bull
And he's not mean
He loves for the children to pat him on the head
And he still thinks life is funny
He's a pit bull
And he's not mean
He'll let the children do anything
And he still thinks things are funny
Our dog is getting older now
That's true, yeah
Our dog is getting older now
You can hear this touching song, written and performed by Jonathan Richman during a recuperation period after a problem with his vocal chords was diagnosed, on the Colours Are Brighter website, where you can pre-order the CD (UK), which will be released 16 October.
Amazon has the CD listed for pre-order as well:
Colours Are Brighter: songs for children and grownups too
Previous jojopost on Colours Are Brighter with more info
Monday, October 2
* Flyer reproduced with permission of Emdee, thanks!
For the next few nights (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 2nd to the 4th October) Jonathan & Tommy will be playing at the Makeout Room, CA...