Okay. So we’re a little obsessed with Jonathan Richman, founder of the Modern Lovers, the Velvet Underground-inspired protopunk band that only your really cool friends listen to. Since the Lovers’ split in 1974, Richman’s been doing his own thing and touring often enough to keep his fans happy. With a string of shows up the coast last week, What Youth was lucky enough to catch him twice – on Thursday in Surfside, and Friday night at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles.
Richman walked on stage with drummer Tommy Larkins – the two have been attached since There’s Something About Mary – and stood so close to the edge of the stage you could almost reach out and touch them. A night with Jonathan Richman is almost like a five course meal: you get some comedy, incredible dance moves, a few words of wisdom and sage advice, a lesson in Italian, maybe a sing-along, and, the main course, a warm serving of sincere, guileless folk rock that’ll make you feel like a kid again.
Famous for not having an opening band, Richman and Larkins pumped out their spontaneous set list to the packed El Rey Theatre without delay. Classics like “That Summer Feeling,” “When We Refuse To Suffer,” “Bohemia,” and a cover of the Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” complete with a spot on Keith Richards impersonation, kept the crowd eager, attentive, and hungry for more.
At the end of his nearly 90 minute set, Richman told the unwavering audience about the first time he’d ever met Lou Reed and Andy Warhol. It was in New York City, in the park. “I was 16 and looked about 12.” Richman complimented Reed’s guitar playing, specifically his ability to play guitar percussion. Reed returned to Andy Warhol’s factory and told the artist about a precocious boy he’d just met. “That was me,” Richman said. Richman told his story, these wonderful memories he’d carried with him through the years, with absolute clarity, as if they’d just happened. And trust me, everyone left that show with a better understanding of the legend that is Jonathan Richman. –Maya Eslami