[live review] Jonathan Richman @ Somerville Theatre

Editor's Note: Below is a quick-shot review of last week's Jonathan Richman show in Davis Square. He didn't play "Roadrunner," so that gives us an excuse to post it up top, video shot at New York City's Coney Island High back in 1998 for Joey Ramone's birthday party. YouTube rules.

As JONATHAN RICHMAN'S live repertoire shifts further and further away from the legend of the Modern Lovers and his cult-classic solo albums of the ‘70s and ‘80s, audiences are now seeing his most recent material finally taking life.

His performance March 3 at the Somerville Theatre was peppered with a few of the “oldies” that Richman still likes to play (such as ‘70’s UK hit “Egyptian Reggae,” 1992’s “I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar,” and 1983’s “Summer Feeling”), but to the chagrin of first-timers, no “Roadrunners” or “Pablo Picassos” were anywhere in sight.

Instead, Richman and longtime drummer Tommy Larkins focused heavily on songs from Richman’s last few albums. Songs such as 2008’s “When We Refuse To Suffer” were infused with a deeper sincerity missing from their studio versions and also fleshed out with new verses and improvised monologues. Likewise, 2004’s “The World Is Showing Its Hand,” with its opening beats contemplating the virtues of diesel fumes from the perspective of a 2-year old Jo-Jo, jumped out as new classics.

As Richman worked the highly-attentive, seated crowd, he led with a more delicate touch than he would with a rowdier house. “Tonight, we will be the noise that the neighbors complain about!” he announced. His message was focused, and goes something like this: Life is here, life is now, reach out and grab something real. Sure, he’s a little sentimental for the old days (and it’s no coincidence that the set was filled with about as many lyrics about Boston as he could remember), but he’d be the first to admit that real-deal love and wonder can happen right here and right now, even in the material world of internets and $5 beers.

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