You would think that being old enough to order from the senior citizens' menu would slow you down some. Thankfully, nobody told Jonathan Richman that.
The bard of Boston, with Tucson's own venerable drummer Tommy Larkins, regaled the audience packing the courtyard of La Cocina for 90 minutes straight. La Cocina cleared out the tables and chairs, a wise move. The audience was a shining example of Richman's fan base: young and old, hipster and hippie, and everything in between.
Bounding onstage with his trusty six-string acoustic guitar, Richman—with puppy-dog eyes and a forlorn stare—announced it was time for a sound check. With a few snippets of "No One Was Like Vermeer," we were off to a boundless start. Up next was my personal Richman favorite: a slow and brooding "Let Her Go Into the Darkness," beautifully punctuated by the sound of a train in the distance.
Peppering the set were songs sung in Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Hebrew—often from one line to the next. There were many moments when his enthusiasm overtook him so much that he stepped away from the mic and, still singing, stepped off the stage to shuffle, shimmy and shake. His best dance moves came while performing, naturally, "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar." Larkins performed a tasteful drum solo on this track, which Richman accentuated with a cowbell and a set of reindeer bells as he led the crowd in a sing-along.
Jonathan Richman may not be an angst-ridden young rocker anymore, but there are stripped-down reminders of that era. He sang with almost a hint of snarl on "Keith Richards," a tasty homage to the Rolling Stones guitar hero; commenting on Richards' "velveteen jackets and dirty jeans," you could see a glimmer of the young Roadrunner in his Modern Lovers prime. A nice surprise was the choogling instrumental "Egyptian Reggae," the lone track Richman played from the Modern Lovers era.
On numerous occasions, the constantly smiling Richman let us know that we were all "invited to the party," and for an hour and a half, that's exactly what La Cocina was—a backyard party led by a legendary troubadour.