Jonathan Richman The Great Hall, Toronto ON, June 6
Published Jun 07, 2013Jonathan Richman took the stage promptly at 10pm, to little fanfare. Longtime friend Tommy Larkins, looking gruff and unaffected, clad in dark sunglasses, took his seat behind the drum kit. Richman smiled and waved at the sparse crowd. And that was about as standard as the evening got, compared to an average performance from other aging songwriters.
Now 62 years old, the only signs of age Richman has are the sporadic grey hairs on his head and in his goatee. Otherwise, the proud man from Massachusetts still possesses the youthful wonder that has littered his songwriting oeuvre for some 40 years. Before even picking up his acoustic guitar, he pounced around the stage, lamenting the need for plastic bottles on his stage. Everything Richman says, he sings. And as such, everything that comes out of his mouth sounds innocuous to the point of being enjoyable.
Which is why when he opened with "This Kind Of Music," singing "When it smells like rain and the clouds are back," no one in the crowd grew remorseful with his reminder that, outside, Toronto wasn't experiencing the summer it should. Instead, they lapped up Richman's interpretive dance, which was as much an element to his performance as his uber-catchy songs were.
Sure, when Richman would drop his guitar and move without inhibitions, he looked like a sauced-up hobo. But when he reminded the crowd that he was "In a dancing mood tonight," few resisted joining him. It would appear that the line between Richman's onstage persona and his wide-eyed day-to-day approach is incredibly thin. Or, just as thin as the line between the songs he sings onstage and his stream of consciousness rambling.
However, no one can accuse Richman of daftness in the name of entertainment. His legacy is a subtle one, just like the resonance he maintained at the Great Hall. Alternating between odes to long-lost loves and songs that desperately tried to capture emotions inspired by seasons, including a particularly captivating (and endearing) "Summer Feeling."
Jonathan Richman's performance ultimately made him reminiscent of the loopy, adorable uncle you only see at weddings; you wish you saw him more, yet still understand why that can't happen.