Thursday, December 06, 2007

JoJo a Go-Go at SoHo

So it's come to this--you go to a concert and the most brilliant performance artist shows up instead. That's the case with Jonathan Richman's show at SoHo Wednesday night. For as much as he sings his sweet-silly songs, as much as he does his sly hip-sway dance steps, as much as he picks a fancy acoustic guitar (he even buried fave "I was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar" in the instrumental intro to the second half of his set), he also makes the audience roar with laughter. Who is this man on stage? With his seeming stoner stare and paeans to love he often seems a bit simple, some kind of rock and roll rube. But then there's the song about Vermeer. Or a version of "Let Here Go into the Darkness" in which he shows us the troubles with love not just in English but in French, Italian, and even Hebrew. It's a great bit--men and women are at each other everywhere--but it's a better bit because of who delivers it. The man who seemed the mayor of simpleton just went all Berlitz on the audience, and did it with differing male and female accents, even. At some speed.

Richman gapes with innocent enthusiasm at his loves, and that doesn’t mean just girls, with whom his songs rarely get to second base. Indeed, what I think is a new tune nostalgically laments the 14 year old but looking 12 Jonathan hoping against hope that a 15 year old girl means something when she smiles at him. She doesn't, but he etches his teen ardor so finely, it suddenly seems the song isn't inspired by his life but James Joyce's "Araby." Of course the great love of his life isn’t a female, it’s rock and roll. And luckily he had stalwart, ever inventive Tommy Larkins along on drums. Still, Richman has been at it 35 long years, meaning his cult is pretty much a religion celebrating the missing link between Chuck Berry and “Sister Ray."

His genius is to do all he does with a gee whiz air of a kid pointing out something cool to his pals. That we get to be his pals is our luck, or if you’re into rock-as-cult, our natural superiority.

He didn't do this song either:

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Blogger Bryan said...

I got to see Jonathan Richman at Ventura Theater a few years ago. Somehow, they screwed up the advertising, so only about 50 people showed up. Not only did he not seem to mind, but he put on one of the more entertaining shows I've ever seen.

He was also very passionate about an execution that California was about to carry out (I can't remember the name), and that execution was eventually stayed.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Turquoise Taylor said...

Great review! I was at last night's show--and the Ventura Theatre one Bryan mentioned. It was fantastic, as well.

And: Jonathan spoke for a while about Mumia Abu-Jamal, as I remember.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Trekking Left said...

The song about his love for the older 14 year old was my favorite.

9:36 AM  

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