Tuesday, October 28

Champaign, IL: October 25, 2008

Jonathan played to a small crowd in Champaign, but the show didn't suffer any for it. William Gillespie and C.D. Scoggins were lucky enough to attend, and kind enough to write a review that's longer than the paragraphs I'm used to stumbling upon.

A goateed man with a guitar case walked out onto the bar floor and announced, "They said we can play now so we're going to play. We ain't going to play loud so come on up." About 25 people wandered up to the stage as Jonathan strapped on a guitar and his band—his drummer Tommy—climbed behind the drum kit.

Richman was lanky, lean and seemingly boneless as he played guitar. It struck me that he didn't need a guitar strap; he was so in shape that he could hold his guitar up during songs. His eyes, beady and sparkly black, appeared to knowingly penetrate the audience. Opening with "Let Her Go into the Darkness" (from the soundtrack to There's Something About Mary), Richman quickly engaged the crowd. As someone more familiar with his early 1970s material with the Modern Lovers, I was astounded that the 57-year-old's smooth and trembling voice hadn't changed one bit. It had not been ravaged by the alcohol and nicotine abuse that befalls so many older artists. I'd heard somewhere that Richman was a pretty sober guy. Tonight, it showed: His physical appearance and vocals were pristine. So let that be a lesson to all those wrinkly, bloated classic-rock fossils who croak through their high notes at ill-advised reunion shows: Clean living pays off.

He looked worried at times, and other times he would smile as if a private thought had relieved him for a moment of his sorrow. He seems so proud when he plays a real rock lick—a simple, tough melody—he grins like a kid, eyes still a bit worried that he might not pull it off again. He has a restless, multilingual, self-deprecating intelligence and an open heart. I sense a sadness that his music is a struggle against.

Read the rest at Smile Politely.

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