Tuesday, July 8

Review: The Aladdin Theater, Portland, Oregon, July 5th, 2008


I Know Why The Aged Hippie Sings



The concert was the entire reason for going on this trip. Because clearly, driving 13.5 hours total to see Jonathan Richman wasn't quite enough, so we had to up it to 20 hours and change. I called my sister the day I found out Jonathan was playing in Portland. I had taken her to the show in Salt Lake City, and now she love love loved Jonathan even more than I prayed for. (Okay, that was the first and last terrible Jonathan pun.) So I phoned her up

Randi: Kelsey, Jonathan is playing in Portland! Do you want to go?
Kelsey: Why do you ask such stupid questions? Of course!!

I am a firm believer that all it takes to get one of your friends from lukewarm to love is to take them to one of Jonathan's shows. There's something about him that makes you think that he's playing just for you, and whether you enjoy it or not is the most important thing on his mind. My friend Cathy has always put up with my appreciation of Jonathan, and has come to like him herself. I figured if I could con her into coming along on this trip, she would love him. I knew it would be true.

So that is how we all wound up standing in front of the Aladdin Theater on a Saturday night, waiting for the doors to open. We had not gotten there as early as I would have liked to, and I knew we weren't going to get front row seats. I was trying desperately not to let it harsh my mellow. 5 minutes before the doors opened, I saw someone familiar walking by the line. It was Tommy, and by the signs of the line, I was the only one who noticed him hanging out. As it turns out, I am, in fact, a chicken, and did not say a word to him, but merely gawked in my pathetic excitement. This also lends creedence to the deeply held belief of family and friends that, if I ever got to meet Jonathan, I would do something clever and eloquent like throw up on his shoes. *eyeroll*

The doors opened, and we rushed into the theater, ending up with 4th row. One thing about the Aladdin: there are actual seats. I am not so sure I'm with this for a Jonathan concert. We tried to rock out during "lesbian bar", but there's only so much you can do in a seat. But we were close enough that our view of the stage was excellent, so i was excited. In the viewings category, I noticed Jonathan backstage with a group of people.

Cathy: Who's that chick with him?
Randi: It looks like...oh holy hell, that's his wife.


She walked out one of the side doors and down the aisle. General consensus: she's cute. So is the tiny dog she was carrying with her.

It is at this point in the review that the concert actually starts. Jonathan was his own opener, and you could feel the love in the room as he walked out on stage. He could have sung "Baa Baa Black Sheep" and we all would have been right there with him. As it turns, out that was not his first choice, and he instead opened with "Let Her Go Into The Darkness". During the concert, we got to hear "Here Come the Martian Martians", with verses that I'd never heard before, about the Martians watching Mtv and listening to the radio. Jonathan warned us that

Here come the Martian Martians/ They're just like me or you/ if you insult their taste in music/ you're gonna hurt their feelings too
However, the best line of the song was undoubtably:

Now their underwear are sagging/ how much more can we take?/ now they dance just like Madonna/ and that Justin Timberlake

the crowd met that line with an appreciative roar of laughter, and Jonathan beamed. He couldn't have asked for a better crowd, and seemed to realize that, as he was in the best mood I have ever seen him in. We hung on his every word, even when he played songs in French, Spanish, and Italian that not everyone knew. he had a sense of humor about even this, while singing "El Joven Se Estremece", he joked, while singing the chorus, "Everybody!"

He sang "Lesbian Bar", and the whole audience sang along, dancing in their chairs as best they could. Cathy turned to me, smiling brightly and said "He's great!" She smiled for the rest of the concert, watching Jonathan with as much joy as I did.

Jonathan gave us a monologue on how "Our parents meant the best for us, with those sterile suburbs with the manicured lawns. They wanted the best for the next generation". But in his case, he wanted the hubbub of the city, the smell of the diesel, and went right into the 'The World Was Showing Its Hand". He also had a discussion with the young man inside his head before "Couples must Fight"

Young Jonathan: Jonathan, me and my girlfriend never fight, we've been dating about 3 years now, and we never fight, isn't that great?
Old Jonathan: Well, you see, young man. *Dramatically puts his hand on his chin and thinks* In my experience, not fighting is a sign of...deeper problems. Perhaps you're the exception! But in my experience, couples must fight.

As far as new songs, he pulled out "Older Girl", which I absolutely love, and if anyone has any sort of recording of it, please indulge me. The song is funny and a little sad, about how even the ice and snow were telling him he was just too young for that older girl, and all he could think to say to her were the things 14 year old boys say to 15 year old girls. He also played the song that he played at the Makeout room, which I'm guessing is called "Stultified". You can see it here, it's the second song, the first one is "Es Como El Pan". He played a song about how he can barely say goodbye to his wife sometimes, and how he loves the way she decorates and basically everything she does. It was unbelievably adorable, and I have no clue what it was called.

He led the entire crowd in a rendition of "The Cellphone Song", which is great no matter how many times I hear it. When he asked himself what he was going to do when there were no more payphones, his answer was a simple "Well...I don't know!"

When it came time for the concert to wrap up, the entire crowd protested with a sad "AWWWWWW". despite the fact that he played for a good hour and a half. He played 3 encores, and then, picking up a note someone had put on the stage, sang Happy Birthday to a member of the audience. Then he left the stage, and we were all left basking in the glow of another fantastic Jonathan concert.

Afterwards, we went to VooDoo Doughnut, where I had a doughnut with Tang on. It was delicious, but the best part of the whole evening was when Cathy turned to me as we left the theater and said "I really hope he's playing when we go to San Francisco. Or we could crash in Seattle or Denver to go see him too!" Oh Jonathan, you've done it yet again.

Set List (Maybe not complete, and certainly not in order)
Let Her Go Into the Darkness
Es Como El Pan
Couples Must Fight
Time Has Been Going By So Fast
Here Come the Martian Martians
Stultified (?)
Sometimes we can barely say Goodbye (?)
I was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar
Egyptian Reggae
El Joven Se Estremece
The Lovers are Here
Les Printemps De Amoreux
This Romance Will Be Different For Me
Because Her Beauty is Raw and Wild
Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eyeshadow
Not So Much To Be Loved As To Love
En Che Mondo Viviamo
He Gave Us The Wine
The World Was Showing Its Hand
Older Girl
The Cellphone Song
No One Was Like Vermeer
Happy Birthday

More pictures at my flickr

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