Jonathan Richman: The Kazimier, Liverpool

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Iconic Modern Lover, Jonathan Richman provides a masterclass in tales to make the belly ache and warm the soul. Getintothis’ Jamie Bowman captures the magic.


Look up ‘cult artist’ in the dictionary and you might well find a picture of Jonathan Richman.
Since forming his seminal garage band The Modern Lovers in the 1970s, the Boston-born singer songwriter has completely subverted his status as a godfather of punk by becoming a pleasingly eccentric acoustic troubadour singing songs about dinosaurs, lesbians and martians.
Record sales and any sense of a conventional ‘career’ long went out the window with Richman now seemingly content to travel from town to town playing his flamenco guitar for his small but devoted band of followers.
It’s a comfortingly nostalgic way of doing things and suits Richman‘s own childlike worldview nicely. Some people may find his wide-eyed innocence cloying and something of an act but as he launches into the classic Egyptian Reggae while expressing himself through increasingly comical jiving it is impossible not to warm to the 60-year-old.
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Jonathan Richman live at the Kazimier.
Longtime drummer Tommy Larkins provides a sporadic backbeat as Richman starts songs, finishes songs and provides hilarious spoken introductions which are frequently as long as the ditty which follows. Snatches of tunes sung in French, Spanish and Italian all enthral the audience.
But as funny and amusing as Richman is, he is no novelty or comedy act. It takes a special kind of performer to make an audience cry with laughter one minute and have their eyes moisten with sadness the next.
The packed crowd in The Kazimier respond with respectful silence during beautiful songs like the heartbreaking That Summer Feeling and a pleasing run through of Modern Lovers classic Old World, while the smiles are reserved for the likes of These Bodies That Came to Cavort, with its musings on the absurdity of making our bodies sit down all day or ignoring them when they tell us to drink less wine.
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Jonathan Richman live at the Kazimier.
Best of all his new songs and a perfect example of this duality is the brilliant My Affected Accent, where Richman apologises for his gauche teenage self and admits that ‘I should have been bullied more than I was‘ for ‘saying feline instead of cat‘ or ‘aforementioned when I should have said that‘.
For the climax of this wonderful gig, Richman leads the crowd in a moving sing a long of Bohemia, another touching paean to his and probably most of the audience’s teenage years.
It’s a song which reprises so many of the themes of Richman‘s work – parents versus teenagers, work versus rock n roll and straight versus hip.
As the grinning multitudes sing along to the chorus’s refrain of ‘showed me the door to bohemia‘ they are really thanking Richman for doing the same for them.

Jonathan Richman live at the Kazimier.

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