190627ind Duguay

Jonathan Richman, a staple of the New England music scene since the early 1970s, brings his acoustic guitar and nearly five-decade long musical catalog to the Odeum in East Greenwich this weekend.

When it comes to New England’s music history, there are very few who have had as much of an impact as Jonathan Richman. There’s a case to be made that the Natick, Mass. native was the region’s first ambassador of punk rock when he started The Modern Lovers during the early 1970s. He even wrote a song under the same name of the area and to exclaim his love for it. These days he leans more toward the acoustic route but he still brings the same amount of energy that he did when his career started. On Saturday night, people will get to experience this when Richman takes the stage at the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich, with Tommy Larkins on the drums.

A main influence that made Richman want to play music was the New York City band The Velvet Underground that was fronted by the legendary Lou Reed during the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“My interest in The Velvet Underground started my shift from the visual arts to music”, he says on the effect they had on him. “The way they improvised the songs as they played, the drone and the darkness in the sound were all a part of it. I liked them, The Stooges and a few other groups. I was also influenced by Charles Aznavour who I saw perform in 1970.”

When it comes to playing live, Richman uses a somewhat improvisational approach. Also, people can expect some newer songs to be brought into the fold this time around at the Odeum.

“The music we’re doing now works well in quiet places like theaters and performing art centers”, he mentions, “We still don’t use a program or a set list so we don’t know what we’ll do until we do it. Please do not expect old songs, many singers my age do a retrospective and this show is not like that. It’s mostly stuff made up in the last three and four years and some of the songs presented might be in different languages. This is not to be esoteric or clever, it’s because the different languages help me express different feelings sometimes.”

“My idea of a good show has nothing to do with applause,” Richman concludes. “It’s about if all the songs I sang that night were ones that I felt.”

No matter what he plays and how he does it, Richman always manages to put on a quality performance. Go spend your Saturday night at one of the finest venues in South County and enjoy yourself.

Rob Duguay is a Rhode Island-based music writer. Send him email at rob.c.duguay@gmail.com.

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