Review: Jonathon Richman at the Grog Shop

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As guitar-strumming funny men go, Jonathon Richman falls somewhere between Adam Sandler and a lovesick school girl. Once, 30 years ago, he was the Godfather of Punk. His band, the Modern Lovers, won irony-loving hearts across the globe with hits like “Roadrunner.” But in recent years, he’s better known for his appearances in There’s Something About Mary (as That Crazy Guy with a Guitar) and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. His shtick is plaintive and hilarious at the same time. In concert, it’s sometimes hard to know whether to laugh or bring the guy a box of Kleenex. ... Last night at the Grog Shop was no exception. Wearing a blue-and-white shirt that could either be described as Hawaiian or Three Amigos!-inspired, Richman launched into his set with a tribute to our “stupendous and miserable city.” “In this miserable city tra la la,” he warbled cheerfully. Then he warbled it in Italian, too. For much of his short performance, he barreled through favorites such as “Pablo Picasso” and “I was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar,” without pausing for even a moment of commentary. Later, he explained that because of a throat condition, his doctor allowed him to sing but not talk after shows. Still, the sizable crowd of hipsters, many of whom appeared to have been bused directly from Oberlin, didn’t seem to mind. PBRs in hand, they clapped and clumsily flung themselves around the dance floor with more enthusiasm than Richman himself could muster. His mock teenage-angst ballad, “Girlfriend,” was particularly popular, whereas more sincere numbers, such as “Surrender,” had a kind of stupefying effect. You have to hand it to Richman for staying in character, though. He never breaks out of playing the strange, kind-of pathetic straight man. Then again, as one girl in the audience commented, “Is it a character? Or is he just crazy?” We’re still not sure. – Lisa Rab

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