Jonathan Richman, Academy 2, Birmingham

Richman is best described as a naive minstrel, travelling with less and less as the decades roll past. The last few tours have found him accompanied only by drummer Tommy Larkins, wielding a battered acoustic guitar, refusing to be plugged-in and just brandishing his instrument in the general direction of a microphone stand.

In the early Modern Lovers years, the Velvet Underground shone as Richman's guiding light, but by the late 1970s, he had developed a unique style. Since then, Jonathan has not changed much, although he now seems faintly more devilish, slightly more worldly-wise.

Richman has always looked about 10 years younger than his actual age, so now he's just into his sprightly forties, in jeans and T-shirt, still trim and sporting a goatee. His mind, fortunately, retains its childlike wonder at the simple things in life, and this is a stance that Jonathan also adopts towards the complex things in life. For many years, we've wondered whether he's really so awe-struck by sheer existence, or whether he's always being slyly ironic. Ultimately, Richman is probably enjoying it on both levels at once. A significant change is his bodily liberation. Jonathan frequently dances over to the side of the stage while Larkins bashes out a rickety drum solo. A variety of mostly Latinised beats prompt various Pee Wee Herman-style hip-shakes and arm rotations. Richman also likes to twirl his guitar in circles, stopping the strumming to call out his verses.

His guitar style is close to that of Willie Nelson, full of emphatic phrases that are struck or scribbled with fluent yet interrupted grace. He avoids predictable constructions and has a markedly personal signature. The other evolutionary development is Richman's interest in multilingual delivery. Ten years ago, he sang a whole album in Spanish, but tonight he's also turning out songs in French and Italian. This is so non-USA. But Jonathan also exudes pure Americana, even if it frequently slips down south of the border. He does not mind playing the oldies, with "Pablo Picasso" slipped in at the start, followed up by a goose-pimpling "Vincent Van Gogh".

Richman transforms "Give Paris One More Chance" into a recounting of a dream he had when he was 17, an extended tale that garners a crowd singalong. Other songs prove more directly comedic, although "You Can't Talk to the Dude" and "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar" have morose undercurrents. At least "Egyptian Reggae" is uncomplicatedly happy. For his encore, Jonathan delivers an a capella version of "Walter Johnson", his paean to a childhood baseball hero.

The audience radiated genuine love during this intimate encounter. Richman inhabits the whole venue-space, silencing the audience, singing and playing off-mike as he seren-ades quietly. This looks set to be the year's most profound low-amplification experience.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living