Jonathan Richman, Live
On Monday night I headed over to The Low Beat in Albany to see post-punk troubadour Jonathan Richman, who was fantastic.
But you know what else is fantastic?
The Low Beat.
On Central Avenue, The Low Beat is the intimate new venue for rock and roll owned by Howard Glassman. Glassman previously owned Valentine’s, which closed last year to make way for Albany Medical Center’s expanded campus. I loved Valentine’s, and was sad about its demise. But The Low Beat is a great little space, and has a cozy ambiance all its own. It was a perfect setting for Jonathan Richman, whose clever, buoyant pop-rock was accompanied by longtime drummer Tommy Larkins.
Richman is best known for his work with the Boston-based band Modern Lovers, but his solo output is equally good. He sings about everything under the sun — love, relationships, sexuality, New York City, Keith Richards, even litter. I was especially struck by how well-observed his songs are. In “Springtime in New York,” he describes a walk through Manhattan, noting the various couples who are meeting and fighting and breaking up, as well as the melting snow and the demolition of a building that brings “the smell of 1890 to the breeze.”
I was also impressed by Richman’s sense of humor and his generally upbeat approach to darker topics. In the song “Couples Must Fight,” he sings about the importance of fighting with your partner with genial good cheer; lyrics such as “Couples must fight, couples must argue/from time to time, to clear the air” are funny, but also wise.
Richman is 62 now, and his music is imbued with a sense of hard-won experience, and the joy of being alive and making good music. Over the years, I’ve become somewhat familiar with Richman and the Modern Lovers, as both are pretty influential and well-regarded. But Monday’s concert made me feel that my music collection is sorely in need of some Jonathan Richman. I liked him before, and I like him even better now. Thanks to him, my first evening at The Low Beat was a night to remember.
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