Jonathan Richman Show Preview: December 4 at the Crescent Ballroom

Jonathan Richman is back in town.
Jonathan Richman is back in town.
Rory Earnshaw

What follows is nothing but an unabashed love note to Jonathan Richman. He first captured my heart when I saw the movie Repo Man -- Jonathan wasn't in Repo Man, but there is a cover of his song "Pablo Picasso" on the soundtrack.

The lyrics of this particular track, like the vast majority of Richman's work, are not only clever and somewhat whimsical, but they also ooze some biting sarcasm that many of us in this weary world clearly adore.

The Massachusetts native founded the Modern Lovers in 1970 with Jerry Harrison (later of the Talking Heads) and David Robinson (who would join the Cars), and he hasn't stopped writing, recording, and touring since. Richman and his original bandmates were definitely influenced by the two- and three-chord song progressions of the Velvet Underground.

In fact, the first Modern Lovers recordings (recorded in 1972, but not released until 1976) were produced by John Cale, the Welsh multi-instrumentalist who was a founding member of the Velvets.

Jonathan Richman's live shows are an absolute treat. From the first time I saw him -- which was many moons ago at the Mason Jar -- till the last time, which was early last summer at the Crescent Ballroom (where he is scheduled to play Wednesday at 8 p.m.), I have never been even remotely disappointed.

Back in the day, it was almost like going to a secret meeting of a club with only a select few members; I would see the same folks at each "Jonathan" show.  

After he and with his favorite drummer, Tommy Larkin, appeared as the pseudo-Greek chorus in the 1998 Farrelly Brothers film There's Something About Mary, his Phoenix appearances became less frequent, but the numbers of folks attending his shows became larger and larger.

The sizable crowd at the Crescent in June was clearly charmed by Richman's superior vocal and musical craftsmanship, enough so that I heard only a few complaints about his request that the air conditioning be turned off to avoid any hindrance to his acoustic sound.

I have no idea what to expect from his show this week, as he has enough material to do at least 30 shows without playing the same song twice. What I do know is that it will be excellent; if you're a fan a great music, you should not miss it.

Jonathan Richman is a true American troubadour and I, for one, am "turn(ing) the color of an avocado" just thinking about it. See you there.

Jonathan Richman is scheduled to perform Wednesday, December 4, at Crescent Ballroom.

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