Saturday, April 15, 2017

Review: Jonathan Richman @ Zanzabar

Punk crooner turned "playground punk" singer Jonathan Richman graced the stage  at 9 pm on friday night in the Dead Forest Room at Zanzabar in Louisville to a crowd of about 150.

Richman got his start, famously, in the late 1960s by tracking down the Velvet Underground and asking Lou Reed for help. He formed The Modern Lovers in 1970 in Boston with drummer David Robinson (later of the Cars) and keyboardist Jerry Harrison (later of Talking Heads). The group gained a loyal following with their loved-drenched pop tunes that would influence a multitude of New York punk bands in the following years.

By 1976 Richman ditched the love punk sound for a playful upbeat -if not stripped down- sound described as both  playground punk and groundbreaking.
Richman kept this playground sound for the next 40 years of a fruitful, albeit just under the radar, solo career.

In The Wings: Richman in yellow, and Tommy Larkins
waiting for the 9pm call to stage
Despite his embargo on amplified instruments as a way to protect his hearing and only using a classical guitar, the 65 year old rocked at times, especially during No One Was Like Vermeer, at moments Tommy Larkins, who has accompanied Richman since the 1990s, took over with drum solos while Richman grabbed percussion instruments and joined in while the crowd clapped in beat.

Jonathan Richman and Tommy Larkins in The Dead Forest room at Zanzabar

 Without the use of amplifiers or monitors the new "Dead Forest" room at Zanzabar was humid with 150 ecstatic fans -as Richman requested the air conditioner be turned off, as to not to have to compete with the rumble of the vents- but, besides a few overheated bouncers, no one seemed to mind too much.

 The set mainly consisted of newer songs from Richman's solo career such as When We Refuse To Suffer,  My baby loves me, Springtime in New York, and These Bodies That Came to Cavort, preceded by a quote he saw written on a wall in permanent marker: "Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a war that you know nothing about" with added sprinklings of earlier solo songs such as the crowd favorite, I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar, in which Richman would stop playing during the chorus and dance around the stage so that the crowd could sing the lines.

The set was void of Modern Lovers songs save for one,  Old World,  after which Richmen ended the night with a poem and then said "Okay, This is your last chance to say goodnight to Tommy, Thank you!"

Tommy Larkins drum set

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