Pop: Still teenage after all these years

JONATHAN RICHMAN

JAZZ CAFe LONDON

THE FARRELLY brothers' charming if tasteless comedy There's Something About Mary did more than just bring sperm-as-hair-gel and stalking jokes into the comedy mainstream. It also restored Jonathan Richman, Boston's nasal poet of love and loss and matters teenage, to the public eye after too long away, as he punctuated the plot with wise snippets of song.

With a new album of his gently swinging acoustic folk I'm So Confused due out next week and three sold-out nights at the Jazz Cafe - a swanky sort of concrete box where the glasses really are made of glass - his career is back on track. Deservedly so. Tuesday night's show, just Richman and the stand-up drummer Tommy Larkins - a curiously Bronsonesque figure in drainpipes - was wonderful. The crowd adored him, from the opener "Fender Stratocaster", a touching tribute to the world's favourite plank of wood in which Richman attempted to emulate great stylists (and hearing someone copy the surf guitar hero Dick Dale on an acoustic guitar will not soon be forgotten), to the concluding a cappella "Arrivederci Roma".

In between, he told jokes, repeatedly put down his guitar to dance erratically (always to huge cheers), mugged like Roberto Benigni, and generally charmed in a way unlikely in a forty-something man given to behaving like a hyperactive teenager, all to Larkins' pounding beat.

Richman's apparent naivete has long been part of the act, but his new songs seemed more like advice from an elder brother. "True Love Is Not Nice" is an incisive dissection of painfully explicable behaviour, though "Love Me Like I Love", with its plaintive complaint "when I was six years old/ I never dreamed I would grow up to feel isolated" proved an emotion too far for an easily embarrassed English audience. The lovely "I Can Hear Her Fighting With Herself", and the hilarious "Nineteen In Naples", with its wonderful talkover: "I'm checking in the pensione, it's 2am... the Italian guys are playing poker in their underwear... I'll never forget that", became instant favourites.

Older songs such as "Pablo Picasso", introduced by a workout far funkier than a drummer and one guitarist have any right to be, the knowing "Give Paris One More Try", and even a snippet of "Egyptian Reggae" (Richman's biggest UK hit, more than 20 years ago) were equally good, with the high spot his touching tribute to the Velvet Underground. Even if his comic Lou Reed impression did sound like Bob Dylan.

Great stuff. A room full of reserved adults, straining under responsibilities and male-pattern baldness, singing along to the chorus "I was dancing in the Lesbian Bar" was a fine sight. He's very special.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones