I hesitate to say 'There's Something about Jonathan', since, to the best of my knowledge, he has never been actively pursued by several men willing to commit fraud and espionage to win his love. But as cliché as the phrase has become, nothing else seems to fit quite right. I have long noted that seeing Jonathan live has an effect on people; previously casual or indifferent followers become wide-eyed adherents from the moment he begins to sing. It seems as though Jonathan has done it again, as Sur la Route Encore writes of the Jonathan Richman experience at The Society for Ethical Culture.
I attended the very entertaining Jonathan Richman show on a gorgeous Tuesday evening at the Concert Hall of the Society for Ethical Culture. While certainly well-aware and appreciative of his musical history, I was previously a casual listener. I wasn't in the group of Jonathan Richman afficionados. Or, at least, I wasn't until last night.
Wow, just wow. The Concert Hall was a perfect setting for this show - intimate, personal, intense. Jonathan's unique style and the intensity of his life philosophy shone through in a show fully appreciated by his many long-time fans. Even if his set consisted almost entirely of his last three albums ("it has to be fresh"). The crowd was just fully engaged with Jonathan and holding tight to his every lyrical dabbling and spontaneous styling.
Specific highlights of the show for me (other than, of course, the deeply evocative lyrics and the intensity of his delivery) were his polylingual extensions in Let Her Go and Vampire Girls; the intensity while singing without a microphone in Springtime in New York; storytelling in The Lovers Are Here and They're Full of Sweat; and the joyous rendition of I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar (which, as the last song in the main set, continued on and on (3 or 4 restarts) as the crowd continued its adorative clapping). "Do you want to hear it? You have no choice" was his twice-used lead-in when transitioning from English into romance languages. Conveniently, I am near-fluent in French and Spanish (as was much of the crowd, apparently, based on their reactions to specific lyrics), and joining Jonathan in using greater linguistic range to expand the expression of human experience added immensely to the show.
Es Como El Pan and When We Refuse to Suffer are my favorite songs from "Because Her Beauty...", and I loved the expanded lyrics in both (e.g. "that's when the homeowner's association wins and your purple and yellow paint job is the loser"). But the show was strong from first note to last (and quite the last, ending with the deeply personal "As my Mother Lay Lying").
I just wasn't prepared for how much I would enjoy this performance.
Ah, who could be? Read the rest, and the set list, over at Sur la Route Encore.
Pictures by Boulevard007, over at Williamsboard