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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Jonathan Richman brings the love with hometown shows

Via Flickr
Jonathan Richman performing on stage.

It’s hard not to smile when Jonathan Richman is on stage. 

The Natick-born singer wrapped up his stay at the Somerville Theatre Oct. 22. After a three-night run, Richman was back in Boston. A city that inspired great Modern Lovers tracks like “Roadrunner” and “Government Center” as well as the greatest love letter the city’s ever received, “Twilight In Boston,” Richman was welcomed home with open arms.

Whether Richman’s dancing, singing, cracking jokes or just taking a step, it’s hard to not look around at the smiling faces in the crowd only to find yourself with a smile just like theirs. But then again, taking your eyes off Richman is a difficult task in itself.

Accompanying Richman was Tommy Larkins, the singer’s longtime drummer and sole bandmate since the 90s. Larkins is the perfect teammate to Richman – perfectly able to improvise with the singer and able to contrast Richman’s childlike personality with a much quieter and cooler spirit. 

For many, Richman’s childlike energy is difficult to match. He often makes changes mid-song, breaks for a quick dance and takes his time with his never-ending supply of stories. Larkins takes a different approach and just lets Richman do his thing, making for a perfect pair.

That same childlike and spontaneous spirit is what makes Richman such an incredible performer.

Despite having a backlog of crowd-pleasing Modern Lovers songs and legendary solo work, Richman’s setlist was built on the spot. Richman’s meditative nature shined in his setlist which consisted of poetry, new material and storytelling.

Richman’s show is anything but pandering. For fans of the performer, this should come as no surprise. Richman is clear about how he performs today, even stating in the description for these shows.

“Please do not expect old songs. Many singers my age do a retrospective; this show is not like that,” said Richman.

When Richman brings out the more crowd-pleasing moments in his catalog, he is only creating more room to prove his skills as a singer, guitarist, and showman. Even with a couple of fan favorites played – “I Was Dancing In A Lesbian Bar” and “Pablo Picasso” – the show’s high was just watching him and Larkins improvise what to play next. 

The centerpiece of the show, and perhaps my favorite part, was Richman playing along to his Spanish and French translations of 12th and 14th-century poets Rumi and Kabir. This was one of the many spontaneous decisions in the act that would make no sense for most artists but made perfect sense for Richman.

Richman is now 72 years old and almost half a century past his time with the Modern Lovers. For many legacy acts it’d be easy to call them “past their prime” yet for Richman, that sentiment doesn’t quite fit. Even the term “legacy act” doesn’t do him justice.

Richman’s show is timeless and even greater than his greatest hits. You don’t go to a Richman show for a nostalgia act or to sing the hits. You go to a Richman show for the joy and pure love he puts into his time on stage.

There weren’t many references to Richman’s upbringing in Massachusetts, perhaps another testament to a lasting love of moving on with time, yet a touching performance of the “The Fenway” was a perfect tribute. 

“It’s on the Fenway where I’ve dreamed my dreams,” Richman sang to the crowd with the earnestness that makes him so well-loved. 

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About the Contributor
Colin Doherty, Staff Writer | he/him
Colin is a junior English major, concentrating in Public and Professional Writing. His writing stems from his grueling love for all things pop culture, with music as his main focus. Colin loves to spend his time at house shows and arguing over where the best burrito in Boston is.

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