Jonathan Richman’s still got it

Live Review: Jonathan Richman at The Highland Inn Ballroom in Atlanta, 2/18/11

At 59, Jonathan Richman can still bring the youthful exuberance to every performance. In his first night of a two-night stand at Atlanta’s Highland Inn Ballroom, fans stood in awe of Richman’s songwriting genius and lightning finger work on his acoustic guitar. Accompanied by longtime drumming partner – 18 years, to be exact – Tommy Larkins, Richman put on the most minimalist of rock shows. The due exhibited polar opposite personalities, with the introverted Larkins, sitting behind the drum kit never emoting, to the wildly extroverted Richman, even walking out in front of the mic to shake his hips and dance with audience members. It was as if an old college pal was in town to party. You may remember him as the guitar wielding singer popping in and out of the film There’s Something About Mary, in which he also wrote the theme song. And Tommy was by his side then, too.

His quirky storytelling-into-song style has evolved since his days with the punkish Modern Lovers of the seventies. In that “supergroup” were bassist Ernie Brooks, drummer David Robinson (who later joined The Cars), and Jerry Harrison (who later joined Talking Heads). Richman had been highly influenced by the Velvet Underground while still in high school, and went on to open for them a short time after forming Modern Lovers.

At the Highland Inn Ballroom, fans enjoyed many Richman classics, such as “I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar” and “Pablo Picasso” (“Some people try to pick up girls and they get called an asshole / This never happened to Pablo Picasso”). Whether he’s singing in English (make that a heavily-accented Massachussetts English) or Italian, Richman always seems to give the audience a fantastic show.

Partly touring in support of his new album, O Moon (Vapor Records), Richman continues to release thinking-outside-the-box tunes that always tell a story and are usually very witty. To find him on tour, visit http://www.vaporrecords.com.

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