Jonathan Richman, Crescent Ballroom, 6/28/12
It's hard to know exactly what to say about about Jonathan Richman's performance at Crescent Ballroom last night.
Not because things weren't memorable (they were) or uneventful. Not because the crowd wasn't interesting and hilarious. And certainly not because Richman's performance lacked (it didn't). But the songwriter opened with a cut from his 2004 album Not So Much to Be Loved As to Love called "He Gave Us the Wine to Taste It," a song that warns against thinking too much, that celebrates the joy of experience over obsessive contemplation.
"He gave us the wine to taste and not to discuss," the 61-year-old singer intoned over the tasteful and sparse drumming of longtime collaborator Tommy Larkins.
Abraham Karam Jonathan Richman
And frankly, it's hard to take notes after that. Not only because of the poetic implications, but because Richman is hard to take your eyes off of. Shuffling around the stage, abandoning the microphone anchoring both his booming, unique voice and the nylon-string guitar he strummed to wander to the edges of the stage and sing directly to the crowd, or putting the guitar down altogether to boogie down as Larkins (dressed nattily in green jeans, green T-shirt, a dress blazer, and sunglasses) stomped quietly but masterfully.
Richman sang the haunting "Springtime in New York" next and paused to ask the crowd why the line about a freshly demolished building bringing "the smell of 1890 to the air" made people laugh. "I never got the joke of that line," he said. "It's just the smell of the plaster in the air." He sang it again, and this time no laughs obscured the deep melancholy of that line.
He scolded the New Times photographer, too, as he snapped off a shot during a quiet moment onstage. "Don't click that thing," he said, a sort of mischievous smile on his face. "I'm sure you're taking wonderful photos, but it's all about timing, young man."