Jonathan Richman’s three night run at the Lion’s Lair (photos, review)By Amy McGrath | July 1st, 2013 | 1 Comment »
Jonathan Richman takes the stage with an astonishing lack of pretense. In fact, on Saturday night, he waited in the ticket line at the Lionâ€™s Lair to show his ID and check in with the doorman before taking his place on stage next to drummer Tommy Larkins. With a modest air, the legendary protopunk troubadourâ€™s three-night residency at the Lionâ€™s Lair was a celebration of existential illumination and heartache. His devilishly sparkling eyes hint at an artist of powerful intellect, wit and vulnerability.
Richman’s Lion’s Lair setlists represented songs from a catalogue more than three decades deep, including classics like â€śI Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar.â€ť He repeated many of the songs over his three-night stint, but to amazing effect: the songs were nearly unrecognizable from the versions he had performed on previous nights. In fact, sometimes the songs seem to take a back seat to Richmanâ€™s many embellishments of them â€” stream of conscious wordplay and storytelling punctuated by passionate dance breaks.
The tiny, intimate Lionâ€™s Lair was the perfect venue in which to experience Richmanâ€™s highly personal, engaging nature. Richmanâ€™s stage presence vacillates between an intense vulnerability and a playful, childlike sense of wonder and enthusiasm. The latter was especially evident in the middle of Friday nightâ€™s set, when Richman led the entire crowd of the Lionâ€™s Lair on a fieldtrip out to the Colfax sidewalk to take in a few minutes of the impressive electrical storm. On his return to the stage, he applied the same enthusiasm to the paintings of the Old Masters in his song â€śNo one was like Vermeer.â€ť
Richmanâ€™s inventive acoustic guitar work was accompanied by the excellently jazz flavored drumming of Tommy Larkins, formerly of Tusconâ€™s indie supergroup Giant Sand. Larkins is a patient and steady sideman for Richmanâ€™s unpredictable improvisation. Richmanâ€™s songs and stories tripped through at least four different languages and countless musical, intellectual and artistic influences but never once seemed high-brow or inaccessible. He closed his three-day set with the poignant â€śThat Summer Feelingâ€ť and with as little fanfare as his entrance, floated from the stage into the cool Colorado Colfax night.
Amy McGrath is a Denver-based writer and regular contributor to Reverb.