A welcome addition to the steady stream of acts rolling through Oran Mor this month was Jonathan Richman. Without any of The Modern Lovers and accompanied on the drums by Tommy O’Reilly, the stage was a simple picture with a modest Oran Mor backdrop and minimal lighting. Jonathan, armed only with an acoustic Spanish guitar and some bells for shaking during the dancing moments it was going to be stripped down to say the least.
With no support act or music playing since the 1hour 20mins from when the doors opened, it was natural that the audience had begun to shuffle and tut with a few roars of impatience as time drew on. But upon arrival to the stage, beaming and resplendent in jeans and a shirt, all the tardiness was forgiven. Opening with “I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar” to raucous applause and turning into almost a total singalong, it was clear that the people that wanted to be here tonight really wanted to be here. After a tender and serene “Springtime In New York” the gig began to take the expected turn into a set governed by requests and audience participation. But with such a large discography it would be impossible to put together a set list that would satisfy everyone. As the show went on though, an overwhelming sense of intimacy and exclusivity descended on the room. It was like Jonathan Richman was in your front room, and who wouldn’t love that. The trademark dancing seemed at times to be forced and this was recognised by Jonathan who curtailed the bell-shaking and hip-swinging to avoid the performance plunging into pastiche. However, Jonathan (now 58) has a very strong image to his fans. Of the wide-eyed child who marvels in the beauty of nature and love, but with his witty and knowing observations about modern culture he is a great social commentator also.
Jonathan Richman proved himself to be not only a great performer and entertainer that has not lost an ounce of his charisma or charm but a highly accomplished songwriter that puts a beautiful turn on all of life in the songs he creates. A magical evening that it was a privilege to be in the audience for.