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Concert Fri Mar 11 2011
Jonathan Richman doesn't exactly put on a rock show. After all, in this 2001 Salon interview article, Jonathan Richman reveals he doesn't want to make music that would hurt a baby's ears. His is a charming serenade, more a moonlight sonata with dancing than a headbanger's ball. And yet, he's distinguished not in the way of a grandfather but in the vein of a sexy gentleman that would give Leonard Cohen a run for his money in that department. (Modern Lover, indeed!)
There was great dancing tonight at Cabaret Metro and it was the kind of moves that only the very complex sort of artist can make. Richman was pensive and thoughtful but also very youthful and able to free himself from a depth that draws you down, even though he spoke extensively about how we should relish in suffering, especially the kind begotten from unrequited love in "When We Refuse to Suffer."
Richman was also candid in a way that most musicians can't manage in a venue the size as The Metro. He made it seem as if he was singing directly to us as individuals and that he was deeply moved by our heartfelt applause. At one point, when singing about leaving the past history of racism and sexism behind in "Old World," a fan in front joked, "Tell us what you really think," prompting Richman to candidly and very slyly add to the song, "That's what I really think..well, she asked!" Often, he held his hands to his chest as if honestly proclaiming the truth of his richest thoughts and feelings.
His style of playing certainly added instead of detracting from his sense of genuineness. Though he had a drummer on stage, the drumming was understated next to his guitar playing. In his 90 minute long set, he played an acoustic guitar with flourishes reminiscent of a Flamenco style at times. Of course, he put down his guitar to trip the light fantastic for favorites like "I Was Dancing in a Lesbian Bar." Another crowd pleaser, garnishing several happy guffaws was "My Affected Accent." Perhaps the most gentle song, however, was a newer one and title track from his recent album, 2010's Oh Moon, Queen of Night on Earth.
The truth is that Richman soliloquizes as much as he sings but you get a sense of his personality in this way. However, it remained clear to anyone who was present at this show that his voice is still very much in tact. It's tender in a way that makes you gaze in wonder as you would at the constellations. Richman ended his set with more singing than dancing in a medley about love but the way he spoke about the songs made one sense that they were more autobiographical fact than fiction, which created a dearer devotion. Perhaps, Jonathan Richman needs Not So Much To Be Loved As To Love but we'll adore and cherish him all the same.