[continued from previous post]
All About The Show
When I got there it was still 40 minutes to showtime and the club was sparsely populated with most warm bodies in the restaurant/bar area. At 9:00 sharp, Ané Diaz and her band came out and after a few words with the audience she began singing from her program of Venezuelan folk songs. She played acoustic guitar with a percussionist and electric guitar player; who played rhythm licks at such low volume this was most definitely the kind of band who would be perfect to open up for Jonathan Richman. Not only were they playing folkloric songs in Spanish, but they were even quieter than he was!
So much so, that the first 4-5 songs for the initial small throng were almost drowned out by the din from the bar area in the back room. But with Ms. Diaz weaving her enchanting spell, this soon ended as the crowds made their way to the stage area. The percussionist was playing a mid-sized djembe with a gourd shekere and the effect was so subtle as to draw the now large audience closer to the intimate music. With each new song, the appreciative audience gave forth with much enthusiasm. Ms. Diaz commented wryly that the folk songs were all two minutes long so she had time for three more near the end of her set. And then at 9:30, they were over, and quickly left the stage. A more complimentary and wonderful Jonathan Richman opening act could not be found. Three cheers for Ms. Diaz for solving this long-standing puzzle.
With her minimal gear, Ané Diaz and band were off the stage completely by 9:33… to be immediately followed by Tommy Larkins and Jonathan Richman entering from stage right. In a world where 40 minutes is some sort of record, having the headliner playing just three minutes after the opening act stops playing is some sort of crazy record. Mr. Richman was wearing a jacket and his drummer, the stone-faces Tommy Larkins kept his rose-colored shades on as they began the show in that direct manner they’re known for. No talking [that would come later] just launching into a song with beat by Tommy Larkins.
The first couple of songs, Mr. Richman looked to be surveying the audience; trying to suss when and if the nearly full house was going to begin the energy flow between itself and the performer. As we had been effectively primed by Ané Diaz, this did not take very long! About six songs in he slipped the perennial classic “I Was Dancing In A Lesbian Bar” into the set and that was it. The audience began singing along and a clearly delighted Jonathan crossed the line from cautious and probing to having a party.
Since I had not bought anything after 2004, there were many new songs in the mix this evening. His run of singles following his 2016 “Ishkode! Ishkode!” album meant that many of these songs were rather new. I recognized “O Sun,” “But Then The Ego Went Away,” “Woah! How Different We All Are” and “Outside O’Duffy’s” from their lyrics as being from that album. The latter of which charmingly gave song to the time and place where he met his wife, Nicole Montalbano.
Of course, Mr. Richman’s guitar playing had now fully been assimilated into a Spanish flamenco style with him nimbly strumming many an arpeggio on his nylon strings. It’s been fascinating to watch his style of playing mutate over the last 20 years of shows. His broad cultural palette naturally had him singing songs not only in Italian or French [with the latter taken from a Rumi poem], but there was also a song in Hindu from an Indian poet as well.
Another audience participation highlight was the newer single “People Are Disgusting” as Jonathan coached the crowd how to perform their part of the call and response hook from that one. The hilarious song detailed how the frequent hotel traveler Richman was appalled at what people do the the rooms. And most importantly, how they need to generously tip room service after leaving whatever-it-was in the sink.
Of course, a Jonathan Richman show is not just all laughs. His perceptive humanism makes for a show with a lot of love going around. I had to smile at the younger audience members in front of me kissing and dancing as they were swept up in the magical vibe that the seasoned duo were giving out to us. Special mention has to be made of the perceptive drumming of Tommy Larkins. Mr. Richman likes to improvise the shows with no set list and either they practice for hours at a time, every day, or Mr. Larkins is psychic enough to intuitively follow the mercurial Mr. Richman wherever he goeth. It can’t be simple, even though it sounds as easy as falling off of a log. Occasionally, Richman could cede the floor to Tommy for some soloing while he grabbed maracas or a bell stick and danced to the beat.
At least he had room to move. Near the end of the night, the audience was packed in pretty tightly. It was almost getting too hot when the show ended with its last encore around 11:00 p.m. Oh, pinch me! A show where the opening act played beginning at showtime for a half hour, immediately followed by a 90 minute headliner set? Perfection! Two magical hours of music in just two hours! I don’t know about you, but I get a little tired of investing over half of the time of my work day in order to see some live music. This, in dramatic contrast, was a breath of fresh air. As if Jonathan Richman could ever give us anything else! If he comes near you, don’t miss for a uplifting [and funny] evening of song from an artist with his own point of view. And if you’re in NYC tonight or tomorrow, you will also get to see the last two dates on the tour with Ané Diaz. Go…go!
Jonathan Richman + Tommy Larkins | US East Coast Tour | Winter 2018
27 Feb | The Bell House | Brooklyn, NY [+ Ané Diaz]
28 Feb | The Bell House | Brooklyn, NY [+Ané Diaz]
01 Mar | StageOne | Fairfield, CT
02 Mar | Somerville Theatre | Somerville, MA
03 Mar | The Met | Pawtucket, RI
04 Mar | SPACE Gallery | Portland , ME
07 Mar | ArtsRiot | Burlington, VT
08 Mar | La Sala Rossa | Montreal, QC
09 Mar | La Sala Rossav | Montreal, QC
10 Mar | Skylark Lounge | Rochester, NY
11 Mar | The Andy Warhol Museum | Pittsburgh, PA
13 Mar | Hi-Fi | Indianapolis, IN
14 Mar | SPACE | Evanston, IL
15 Mar | Paradigm Coffee & Music | Sheboygan, WI
16 Mar | Cedar Cultural Center | Minneapolis, MN
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I’m seeing him in NYC on Wednesday night with my 20 year-old son, who is a huge fan!
Stephen L. Shafer – What fun you and your son have in store! I wish I had been seeing him at that age. Better late than never. Enjoy your show!
As always, your concert reviews paint a picture that leaves me very much in the know on what to expect, O Monk. Having not seen him in twenty-odd years, it is delightful to know that he continues to resist the bass fracking and deafness-inducing trends of modern live music, and that both he and Ms. Diaz draw attention to themselves not by drowning out the possibility of other noises being heard, but by attracting actual attention through the mystic art of being good.
A lot of lessons for a lot of bands there.
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