Who: Jonathan Richman
Where: Triple Door Mainstage
When: Thursday, December 11

When we got to the Triple Door last night, Jonathan Richman and his faithful


Last Night: Jonathan Richman at the Triple Door

Who: Jonathan Richman
Where: Triple Door Mainstage
When: Thursday, December 11

When we got to the Triple Door last night, Jonathan Richman and his faithful drummer Tommy had just taken the stage, and my very first impression was of the two of them being completely dwarfed by all the blank, black space around them (I never noticed how sizable the Triple Door's stage was until I saw it without a big band up there to fill it). And yet, when Jonathan Richman started to play, I forgot all about that. Jonathan Richman is small, but he takes up a lot of space. So does his audience; there were actually people standing in the back of the Triple Door because there weren't any more seats.

A lot of people-- the press as well as fans-- take Jonathan Richman's quirky little songs at face value, and it's true that some of them are just for fun. Part of his ultimate wisdom is that not everything is to be taken seriously, and not everything has to be a big catastrophe. Like the "You Can Have A Cell Phone, That's Ok, But Not For Me" song (is that the correct title? I can't remember, so correct me if not)-- a choice that might have been spurred by someone's cell phone going off in the interim silence between songs.

And that's what's endearing about Jonathan Richman: his eccentricities. His Luddite tendencies (he does not use the Internet, period, nor, as

the aforementioned song proudly declares, does he have or want a cell

phone). His impish little dances. The way he spins his guitar around in his hand like it's attached there on a pivot. The way he forgets himself periodically and abandons the microphone while he's performing because he's bouncing around the stage. The way he takes some requests, but ignores others (how many times can you really make the poor guy play "Pablo Picasso," anyway?)

But I have a problem when people call Jonathan Richman "childlike."

Yes, the man looks young and sprightly. Yes, he has a mischievous grin like a kid who just drew on the living room walls with crayons and is totally delighted about it. Yes, he has (and played) a song about having a

tough time sitting still in school (not a big surprise, considering how

he doesn't even stand still now.) To call him childlike, though, would

diminish the incredible poignancy of the songs he sings which are not

about cell phones or dancing in a lesbian bar (both of which he played

last night). He had everyone singing the chorus to "I Was Dancing At

The Lesbian Bar" while he danced for us, and that was fun.

He also played a French song and a Spanish song, the latter of which

was the title track (I THINK) from his 2008 European release, ¿A qué venimos sino a caer?.

Mostly, he played songs from his last two albums, including "Vincent

Van Gogh," "No One Was Like Vermeer," "When We Refuse To Suffer,"  the

title track from this year's Because Her Beauty Is Raw And Wild, and my favorite track from Wild, "Es Como El Pan,"  But, to please all the Modern Lovers fans who just can't seem to let go, he did play his updated version of "Old World" (it's on the new record, too) in which he bids farewell to the old world and useless nostalgia.

And yet, after all that, Jonathan Richman finished out the evening on a nostalgic note. He performed "Older GIrl," his

song about being fourteen and having a crush on a fifteen-year-old

girl, and the song he wrote about moving from the city to the suburbs

as a small child (can anyone remember the name of that one?). But while

those were sweet, his last two songs-- "As My Mother Lay Lying" and

"Not So Much To Be Loved As To Love" were particularly poignant. If you

have not heard the new album yet, "As My Mother Lay Lying" is about

watching his mother die in a nursing home, and I do believe it is one

of the most beautiful songs about death I've ever heard. It brought me to tears, and the whole place was silent except for this jerk behind me who couldn't keep her inappropriate (and inexplicable) giggling inside for the last two minutes of the show.

Could anything have made it better? Maybe if he'd played "Reno" from Jonathan Goes Country. So, reading public: anything you would've liked to hear (or anything I missed)?

comments powered by Disqus