Concert Review: Jonathan Richman at the Beachland

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Road runner
  • Road runner

Lots of people know singer-songwriter Jonathan Richman from his key role in There’s Something About Mary, but he earned his fan-boy reverence in the mid ‘70s as leader of the proto-punk band the Modern Lovers. Since then, Richman has scaled back, turning into a surprisingly minimal, acoustic songwriter accompanied onstage by only drummer Tommy Larkins.

Richman immediately capitalized on the audience’s good spirit at the Beachland Ballroom last night with “Celestial” and “Let Her Go Into the Darkness,” which found the 59-year-old alternating between emphatically finger-picking his guitar, twirling it, and shaking his hips. As the almost-too-brief hour-long set progressed, he would continue to place down his guitar, grab sleigh bells, and display some dance moves when the mood struck.

As expected, much of the night featured more recent material, most of which is routinely good. But Richman did indulge a live standard, “I Was Dancing at the Lesbian Bar,” and the Modern Lovers’ “Old World” reprise found recently on Because Her Beauty Is Raw and Wild. Art is always a popular subject in his oeuvre, and new song “Road to Bohemia” was a highlight, depicting Richman's pretentious early days in Harvard Square.

Ultimately, none of the song selection seems to matter. The crowd is always at the whim of this joyful, spectacular performer. We know what to expect every show: some foreign-language songs, dancing, spoken-word, and plenty of smiles. But he did recite a poem titled “The Real Question,” and like everything Richman does live, it was wonderful. —Michael Tkach

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