"Blame me, don't blame them", said Jonathan Richman about a third of the way into his close to two-hour set last night, "I did it." Sweat was beginning to prickle the crowd, and the rare funk of grown-ups could no longer be ignored. Jonathan enthusiastically confessed that he'd had the air conditioning turned off in the name of ambiance, something that means a lot to him. "I got a plan when it gets too hot, though, I got a secret plan." Immediately playing an extended version (with reprise!) of the eternal party starter "I Was Dancing in The Lesbian Bar" did not seem like that good of a plan.
There are various reassuring constants to a Jonathan Richman set. Jonathan will walk to the front of the stage and sing and play guitar unamplified at various junctures. The expressionless Tommy Larkins will hold the line on the skins and the crowd will sing the words. Jonathan will dance extensively, a palette of moves that includes the neck roll, the knee drop, the guitar twirl, the hip swivel, the hair primp, the hand on heart, the en garde, and the graduation photo. He will show no regard for the structure or lyrics of his songs, no matter how sacred. "Girlfriend," at this point a foundational piece of American rock, ended last night with a cavalier and not massively purposeful note-to-self riff about icicles on a park bench. The sweet recent "Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow" detoured into ancient downtown memories, and it took two dance breaks and a drum solo ("Let's see what Tommy's up to right now") for him to properly describe the exact effect of Chinese lettering in fading red enamel paint over white tile left over from the early '60s on Canal Street. By the time he did a William F. Buckley impression, plopped into a new tune about the accent he affected as a teenager, he had the crowd in his pocket.
You can read the rest here
Secondly, sent to me from lovely reader Howard:
At the end of last night’s Jonathan Richman show at the Bowery Ballroom, a startling thing happened. After graciously giving two encores, JR put his guitar away, started for the exit, and then came back to the mic. He explained that something didn’t feel right to him…that the show had had a lot of ups and downs, but it hadn’t felt good to him, somehow. “We don’t play with any kind of plan,” he explained (speaking for himself and drummer Tommy Larkins, though clearly he’s the only one onstage calling the shots). “And tonight I was really feeling the lack of a plan. We try to keep things fresh…it’s like bread: as soon as you take it out of the oven, it starts to get old.” (I’m paraphrasing) “But I would rather fail like that than play the same stale thing every night.”Anyone who’s ever gotten on a stage knows what it’s like to have a bad night…to not be connected to the music, or the audience, or oneself. It happens, and it doesn’t feel good. But witnessing Jonathan Richman’s palpable sense of confusion and unrest for not (in his mind) delivering the goods, to see him offer himself up like that in front of a packed house, was really something. One fan suggested he solve the problem by singing his song “Springtime in New York,” and yes, he said, that might very well be just the thing. He called Tommy back to the stage, unpacked his guitar, and performed the song with tenderness and real love for the audience and for the city, and all was well once again in the world.
The rest of his review is here.
Look, I even have a video of the Bowery for you! It's a little shaky and all, but sound quality is good! They've got a couple up from the concert, you should go check them out. I swear to God, Youtube is how I bide my time between concerts.