Ever since he shed his proto-punk angst and settled into the role of willfully silly balladeer, Jonathan Richman has been perfecting a body of work that boasts so much childlike sincerity and bittersweet romanticism he virtually stands alone as rock’s greatest oddball troubadour. He represents the eternal teenage heart of rock’n’roll—part Lou Reed and part Frankie Lymon. For years now, there’s been no better place to see this dynamic than on stage. Shot live in December 2002 at the Great American Concert Hall in San Francisco, Take Me to the Plaza does just that, capturing the eccentric everyman in fine form.
Given Richman’s disavowal of much of his previous body of work as being either too angry or too goofy, most of the set list is drawn from the more maturely observational fare of his recent albums, although his wide-eyed enthusiasm remains the show’s dominant element—with wide grins, loose-limbed dancing and mock dialogues enhancing his performance.
The true boon to fans, though, will be the two included interviews. They capture the normally evasive songwriter at his most candid and straightforward, warmly recalling his formative influences, early recordings, evolution as an artist and thoughts on the music business with wit and self-effacing humor.