Jonathan Richman | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jonathan Richman 

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JONATHAN RICHMAN

Jojo's hat trick in There's Something About Mary--he had three tunes on the sound track, wrote the movie's original music, and appeared on-screen as a goofy Greek chorus--is his most public accomplishment of the 90s, but it's not necessarily his greatest. His five most recent records, including the all-Spanish Te Vas a Emocionar! from '93 and last year's I'm So Confused (Vapor), would be enough to earn him a place as one of rock's great oddballs--if he hadn't secured it decades ago. His early-70s classic with the Modern Lovers, "Roadrunner," presaged punk, which by the end of the decade he'd abandoned for a kind of naive folk concerning abominable snowmen, ice cream vendors, and little dinosaurs. But as he's aged (he's now 48 going on 12) he's increasingly applied his sweet style to sharp adult observations like "I Can Hear Her Fighting With Herself," from I'm So Confused, and "That Summer Feeling," from 1992's I, Jonathan, his defining statement--and the defining statement, as far as I'm concerned--on the broken promise of youth. But you don't have to know jack shit about Richman's recorded work to be charmed by him live. He might hook you with his sly, jaunty tribute to the Velvet Underground ("How in the world did they get that sound?" he asks, and then trots out a few bars of "Sister Ray"). He might seduce you with "Vampire Girl," simultaneously one of the sexiest and funniest songs ever. He might give his drummer, Tommy Larkins--who plays a lone snare with a pair of brushes--a showcase on Surrender's "Rock 'n' Roll Drummer Straight From the Hospy-tel," or swing through "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar." Or he might play "Nineteen in Naples," from Confused, and its point--that growing up is a constant terror and a beautiful thrill--will stick in your head as deep as its refrain. Sunday through Tuesday, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. Michaelangelo Matos

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Carol Fonde.

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