Monday, June 27, 2005

Jonathan Richman in concert

The Jonathan Richman show was good. It wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be but that's not a bad thing. He played on the deck Saturday night at the Hurricane in Westport, Kansas City, Mo. It was hot. They had big electric fans to cool the area but Jonathan requested they be unplugged so everyone could hear him in his quiet, reflective moments. To say that Jonathan does an unplugged show is obvious. He unplugged himself nearly 30 years ago.

The crowd was a mixed bag of young hipsters and aging hipsters, and the tragically unhip. I'm not telling you what category I belong in. They impressed me as a group; everyone resisted the urge to sing along and turn the event into a Jimmy Buffet karaoke-style festival. Back in the mid 80's when I saw Jonathan at Parody Hall there was a drunk guy who insisted on singing along on "Walter Johnson". Jonathan stopped the song and asked the guy to give him a break. But this crowd knew better and he's got a lot more material now. I only recognized about half the English language songs, some were in Spanish or French.

We got there about 9:30pm, a full thirty minutes before show time and there weren't a lot of people there. The deck filled up by show time but I was able to stand about 10 feet away from the stage throughout the evening. He came out wearing a blue, button down shirt, slacks and a sport coat. He wore those crazy off-brand sneakers that look like the pair the Skipper wore on Gilligan's island. He looked more like an off-duty accountant than a touchstone of D.I.Y. musical brillance. He smiled and walked through the crowd to the stage where he removed the jacket.

Tommy Larkin manned a full drum kit, and sat on a wooden box that he also played. There was no towel on the snare drum this time. Jonathan played guitar, cowbell, wooden blocks, and tamborine stick.

An incomplete set list (not in show order):

Give Paris one more chance
Behold the lilies of the field
Pablo Picasso
You Can't talk to the dude
Egyptian Reggae
That Summer feeling
Nineteen in Naples
Down In Bermuda

They played two 40 minute sets with a 20 minute break. There was no opening act and no extended encores. After the show, he stepped off the stage and talked to all who approached.

I went with two buddies and it was their first time seeing him live. My friend Rob chatted with Jonathan after the show. I hung back. I couldn't think of anything clever to say. Rob spoke with Jonathan and pointed at me and Jonathan looked over and waved. I waved back. I think Rob gave me credit for dragging him to the show. A wave from Jonathan Richman, a little acknowledgement, it made my night. Thanks Jonathan!

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