Jonathan Richman at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club
Paul Wellman

Never mind the nights when heading to a concert meant crawling home at 1 a.m. On Friday, former Modern Lovers frontman Jonathan Richman got down to it before the sun had fully set, and awarded early arrivers with a set that was equally moody and mirthful — and completely wrapped up before 10 p.m.

Onstage with longtime cohort and beat-keeper Tommy Larkins, Richman appeared as delightfully off-kilter as ever, hopscotching between stream-of-consciousness diatribes and sweet, somber little acoustic numbers that tugged at the heartstrings. Among the highlights, “No One Was Like Vermeer” and “Because Her Beauty is Raw and Wild” both perfectly articulated what solo Richman is all about; with lyrics that were literate, quirky, and unabashedly romantic. Following a lengthy aside about the human condition, Richman gifted us with “When We Refuse to Suffer,” which included a gently nudging remark about the unnecessary use of air conditioning — in an uncomfortably stuffy upstairs room. And later, cultish hit “I Was Dancing in a Lesbian Bar” was broken down into a swaying jazz beat, while a solid throng of devotees sang along. That those devotees seemed to range in age from 6 to 60… well, that made Friday’s early curtain call all the more palatable. n


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