JONATHAN RICHMAN is America's greatest living entertainer. The only reason this accolade isn't universal is that more people haven't seen him perform. But those of us who have are reassured, every time he comes through town, that we're lucky to have Jonathan. No one manages to be so charismatic, self-effacing, playful, funny, sincere, suave, and just plain fun to watch on stage.

He's barely aged a day since fronting the pre-punk Modern Lovers in 1972, and his songwriting skill has hardly diminished. He's still the wide-eyed innocent, playful and charming, but also thoughtful and sad. His voice is expressive enough on its own, but when he's on stage his face conveys at least as much as his lyrics -- he's a far better actor than his screen resume (Kingpin, There's Something About Mary) would lead one to believe. When he sings about the girl who broke his heart, his sad eyes make it seem like he just split up backstage before the show. And when he sings about having fun, he laughs and makes jokes to the audience and shakes his hips, and you know that even after doing two shows a night all week, he is having fun.

And when he throws down his guitar, takes off his sport coat, and dances to just a drumbeat, he's having a blast. Anyone else would make his hip-shaking routine seem like a conceited rock star move. But Jonathan pulls it off, partly because he's so sincerely enjoying himself, and partly because he's not a rock star. Despite his monumental place in rock's history as the missing link between the Velvets and the Ramones, he's not a rock musician. He's a singer; a troubadour; an entertainer.

But while most entertainers are about glitz and glamour and spectacle, Jonathan Richman is far more simple and straightforward. He plays just an acoustic guitar, backed up by a two-piece drum kit, which will be played by Tommy Larkins at this show. He could have a full band, but they'd just get in the way.

His shows are a guaranteed good time, and you have no excuse not to be there. You have other plans that night? A date? A job interview? Heart surgery? It can wait.

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