Tuesday, July 7

Roaring hot at the Lion's Lair

I picked up a couple reviews of our Jonathan at the tiny, packed Lion's Lair in Denver, CO. (Kilby Court was similarly hot and tiny - I will have a review once I get my pictures.) First is from the Reverb blog over at the Denver post. Jonathan was apparently better this time than the last time he came around the Mile High City, and Billy Thieme had plenty of nice things to say.

It’s obvious he’s made the 100-person capacity venue a regular stop. And it’s clear why: he knows exactly how to make the Lair look so much like its own legend — comfortable, intimate and unassuming — a home for the regular, and just as comfortable for a fan.

As I walked into the venue, filled to what had to be capacity with an already sweaty throng, Richman was playing ”My Affected Accent.” He regaled the happy crowd with his characteristically naive banter with, of course, an exaggerated Boston accent. In his eyes, you could see he was still living out his adolescent spirit, belied by the salt-and-pepper in his hair and a few visible lines in his face. The crowd ate up every word, with a few of them hollering out requests (Richman ignored them), and added laughter to the already tight knit atmosphere....

The pair played a hilarious rendition of “The Lovers Are Here and They’re Full of Sweat,” that had the entire audience laughing through the almost uncomfortably appropriate, sweaty heat of the Lair. When they performed the hit “I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar,” he set down his guitar and took up a set of reindeer bells as Larkins played a drum solo, and then had the entire crowd singing the “Ohm-hmm” part of the chorus over and over, never losing that light behind his eyes.

After a short break, Richman was barraged with resounding approval when he asked if we wanted a couple more, and added “…We’re not tired! We just didn’t want to bore you,” and then played easily the best set of the night with “Our Party Will Be On the Beach Tonight,” “He Gave Us the Wine to Taste It,” and a brilliant rendition of “You Must Ask the Heart.”...

The last song, in which he sporadically interrupted himself with narration and wry romantic comedy, inspired a watershed moment for me. I realized that Jonathan isn’t just a brilliant singer-songwriter, nor is he merely the “godfather of punk,” as he’s been dubbed. Jonathan is a quintessential street performer, the archetypal busker. His easy naiveté grasps audiences, and his banter is designed to keep them transfixed until he’s finished, and begins to pass the hat. Only, rather than spare change, Jonathan asks for participation, and to share in his infectious happiness.

You can read everything I skipped here.

The second is from another music blog, Backbeat Online.

Indeed, it's difficult to imagine such communal encouragement and sustained interest taking place at a larger theater. More importantly, perhaps, a larger stage would surely have subtracted from Richman's inimitable stage presence. The founder of the Modern Lovers took full advantage of the small Lion's Lair stage, constantly moving away from his two microphones to sing directly and unamplified to the nearby crowd. Richman found several occasions to temporarily lay aside his guitar in order to take a cowbell solo, a stint on the shaker or just an impassioned dance break.With his eyebrows arched high and his piercing gaze aimed directly at the audience members, Richman seemed on the brink of some kind of emotional breakdown during the entire performance.

The effect of Richman's theatrics and his intensity were as contagious as they were affecting. The sound was simple and the instrumentation understated, but the two performers filled the room with their instrumentation. The audience also kept up a respectful amount of silence during the slower songs and clapped along during the more energetic numbers. The crowd likewise stayed fully engaged during songs that alternated in tone and topic between the ridiculous and the forthright. Richman's pleading, insistent tenor voice and his earnest, searching facial expression elicited encouraging responses during songs like "You Must Ask the Heart," which deals with fairly straightforward matters of love and heartache, and tunes like "I Was Dancing in a Lesbian Bar" and "In High School I was Such a Brat," which incorporate a degree of Dadaistic ridiculousness. Lyrics that casually referenced William F. Buckley got as considerable a response from the crowd as songs about "the springtime of love," rendered in both French in English.

Even Richman's forays into foreign languages and interpretive dances failed to loosen the rapt attention of the crowd, who cheered for the words they did not understand and hooted during the dance breaks. The effect would surely have been lost in a more spacious and more anonymous venue. Songs like "Let Her Go Into the Darkness," "Time Has Been Going By" and "Celestial Es Como El Pan" and "Because Her Beauty is Raw and Wild" benefited from Richman's direct input with the crowd. In between verses, Richman would address the audience directly, riffing on a theme and offering observations or anecdotes. What's more, the pair's instrumental approach also seemed ideally suited for a smaller space. Richman's flamenco strumming style and elaborate solos rooted in bar chords played on a nylon string guitar fit the scope of the space, as did Larkins' small jazz drum kit.

Sounds like it was an awesome show, all around. You can read the rest of the last one over here.

I always laugh when people talk about how hot it is at a Jonathan show. Seriously, folks, wear as a few clothes as possible and pray for a cool night. That's your best bet. :)

First two pictures are also from Reverb, the bottom one is from stakerpix.

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