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February 05, 1985 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-02-05

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C

ARTS

P

The Michigan Daily

Tuesday, February 5, 1985

~1
'age 6
e

Richman

unresponsive, unrewarding

By Dennis Harvey
T HE MAIN feature of the evening was the look. It
was that terribly specific pained look: startled,
dumb, twitching dread of the unknown. The rabbit-
caught-by-headlights look. The likely instinct to bolt
was resisted, though, and eventually that look
unglazed, watered to more blunt pathos; to that en-
dless anxiety in the eyes of the lap mutt right before
you give it the boot - a look that at once admits to all
the guilt in the world and confers it all on you for the
swat you're about to deliver. The really terrible thing
is that, looking into the depths of puppy-anxiety, you
probably want to whack the damn thing more than
ever.
Jonathan Richman necessarily treads as close as
possible to the line of potential embarrassment that
always exists for those who stand in front of
strangers and perform. It's part of his charm to see
how close he can come to really seeming an idiot and
still get away with it.
Of course, this kind of risk demands utter confiden-
ce on the part of the fool. At Saturday night's
9:00 show at the Halfway Inn, Richman seemed
about as comfortable doing his thing as your average
8-year-old shoved out in front of an audience of
suspiciously sharklike parents at the piano recital. As
anyone who has traumatized through that particular
childhood situation can attest, you either emerge
from it a.) with an obnoxious fervor to thrust yourself
again on large numbers of forceably attentive people
at the next opportunity, or b.) dangerously close to
having committed various nefarious sins (thumb-
sucking, bed-wetting) in public and anxious to never
emerge again from the juvenile anonymity into the
spotlight. Jonathan Richman has always seemed like
a guy who just can't help feeling rather along the
lines of a.) - otherwise, why would a fairly skittish
personality ever risk public humiliation by singing
"Buzz Buzz Buzz, Goes the Honeybee" in the first
place? So it was rather bewildering that the Halfway
show found him completely ill-at-ease and distrustful
of the audience. And when Jonathan, the eternal-

child Peter Pan of cultists, can't even convince him
self.. . uh-oh.
The evening started right off on a discordant note
as Richman clambered onstage with his acoustic
guitar and, before anyone could utter the dreadful
request, immediately said "If you paid to hear
'Roadrunner,' I hope you can still get your money
back." OK! OK! Mouth hangin' open, dopey eyes
glazed in preparation for iminent disaster, Jonathan
seemed prematurely braced for the worst.
Not that the 9:00 audience could possibly be called
the worst. One of the great things about being a
Richman fan is the voyeuristic glee you can take in
watching other people's virgin reactions to him. The
immediate-allergic-reaction end of the spectrum is
neatly defined in a recent concert review from the
East Coast, in which a bouncer was quoted as saying,
"This guy is absolutely the worst thing I've ever
heard. He's some elaborate in-joke Boston has been
putting on over on the rest of the world for years."
Indeed, to those resistant to whimsy, Richman is
bound to seem the most unbearably cloying thing to
happen since they brand-named those diapers Love's
Baby Softs.
But the Halfway's 9:00 audience was composed
equally of the already-converted and the more-than-
willing-to-be. Yes, everybody was much too politely
well-seated, nobody even thought of dancing. (True,
they could have, but the performer didn't prod us
even a little, and you can't really expect a dance par-
ty to erupt at a solo-acoustic set.) The reaction was a
bit on the complacent side, as if we were watching
some folksy humorist at the Ark. (Actually,
if Richman did play the Ark, he'd have no perfor-
mer/audience expectation problems at all; however,
he obviously prefers the greater risk of playing solo
for a rock-oriented crowd, and I'm glad.)
If anything, the crowd was almost too easily
delighted with him, given how hesitant his whole per-
formance was. It was great to see so many people
who love and really know all of his stuff, but at times
during the alternatively nervous and lethargic set

they seemed too willing to find any throwaway
gesture adorable. It was cute the first two or three
times a couple of guys in front sang the 'missing'
female harmonies from the Jonathan Sings! LP on
songs, but not the subsequent twenty. Richman him-
self got locked into repeating the same thin gags over
and over (doing a Mini-shimmy, etc.) to win an easy
laugh. Like the roches on a night when the chemistry
is somehow all wrong, the things he does and says are
innately funny (probably mostly because we bring
the full load of already-loved 'personality' to bear on
them), but the way he says and does them clue you
that discomfort is high and the humor is mechanical.
Early on, a fustrated "Should I have brought a bass
and a drummer?" This looks like math class out
there" seemed justifiable as an ice-breaker, but
eventually the performer's wilies just couldn't be
blamed anymore on an unresponsive audience - they
were certainly more willing to give him a chance than
vice versa.
The first mini-set rambled awkwardly through
some Chuck Berry and Little Richard covers,
favorites like "Ice Cream Man," and a few highly
promising new songs. Jonathan was in fine voice
(allowing, of course, for your acceptance of his
nasally-clogged perma-pubescent sound), but his
guitar playing varied wildly, and the between-songs
patter had a discomforting air ofdesperation. In a
sudden spurt of aggressively bad jokes, my favorite
was "What did George.Washington say right before
he gave 'em the vote? 'All right, give 'em the vote.' "
On the delightful, unfamiliar "When I Dance," he
briefly seemed to warm up a bit, and the crowd war-
med right up with him; another apparently new song
about Vincent Van Gogh kept the rapport going. But
then, during "Affection"-a pretty daring choice for
a difficult night, since this is about as emotionally
naked a song as you can get - Jonathan seemed to
freeze up again, and practically lost track of the song
entirely during a muddled rap in the middle of it. It's
all very nice to admit your feelings of vulnerability to
an audience, but Richman seemed perversely to be
see RICHMAN, page 6

Prague symphony

By Mike Gallatin
UNDER THE direction of Jiri Beloh-
lavek the Prague Symphony Or-
chestra along with the Festival Chorus
gave a successful performance of
Dvorak's "The Spectre's Bride" this
past Saturday evening at Hill

auditorium. Playing without an inter-
mission and with the house lights up the
work was warmly received as the group
completed their fourth production
during this American tour.
Audiences have been reacting
positively to a live performance of the
cantata around the country and Ann
Arbor was no exception. The relative

igh ts
complexity as well asc
oratorio make it easier1
in a concert hall as opp
disk. Moreover while i
work to be heard time
recording like some of
popular compositions,
detracts from the pl
joyment of a first hea
cert.
"The Spectre's Bri
dimensional work1
existing on many leve
English horns, bass cla
bells provide slight mo
chestral color and tone,
provides deep, power
which, at moments,
chorales, the resonant
Kusnjer acts as witness
these macabre ev

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with Dvorak
obscurity of this Magdalena Blahusiakova plaintively
to be appreciated sings of her hopes and fears while tenor
posed to a record Michael Sylvester smoothly lures her to
t might not be a a haunting death.
ie and again on Yet, the maiden's soul is saved in-
f Dvorak's more stead of damned at the end which ap-
that in no way peals to the audience's more optimistic
easure and en- sensibilities. As the sun rises and dawn
ring live in con- breaks, the evil spirits, ghosts and
cadavers return from whence they
de" is a multi- came much like the conclusion of
with meaning Moussorgsky's "Night on Bald Moun-
els at once. The tain." Then in a hymn-like fashion
arinet, harp and replete with celestial harmonies and a
tifs of varied or- heavenly harp accompaniment, the
the chorus part chorus and baritone singea tranquil
wrful harmonies benediction in hushed tones praising
resemble Bach the innocent soprano in a final eulogy.
, baritone, Ivan While as a whole "The Spectre's
s and narrator to Bride" is a subdued work which under-
ents, soprano plays the forces of the demonic, there is
nonetheless no hiding Dvorak's genius
for melodic invention and gift of song-
like phrases. Soprano Magdalena
Blahusiakova's performance was par-
ticularly memorable for her gentle,
delicate and yet piercingly plaintive
tones which were exquisitely
restrained and yet full-bodied at the
same time. By all yardsticks of
measurement, it appears that the at-
tempt to revive interest in this
peculiarly fascinating cantata con-
tinues to be a great success.

Jonathan Richman belts out a song during his very disappointing show at the
Halfway Inn Saturday night.
Heavy metal's bad boys a
pack Royal Oak Theatre

- -- -- I -

By Rob LaDuke
O H WOW! What time is it? Geez it's
noonalready, I better get up. What
a concert last night (Friday night), the
Royal Oak Music Theatre will never be
the same. Not after that heavy metal
spectacular that was headed by
Metallica, with Armored Saint and
W.A.S.P. as openers.
The show began with Armored Saint.
They exploded onto the stage with the
title track from their recent release,
"March of the Saint". After that, ex-
cept for a crunching performance of
"Can U Deliver" featuring dueling
guitars and audience participation,
Armored Saint delivered a solid but
otherwise unspectacular performance.

Their music had the same quality as th4
album but the show lacked intensity.,
After lead singer John Bush, who sang
like his life depended on it and drus.,.
mer Gonzo, who played like a madm
the other three members were almggt
invisible. No emotion, no energy, just.
putting in time. But aside from that they,
were a good opening act.
Next on tap was W.A.S.P., playing 9
a stage complete with two huge skugsA
one on either side of the drummer, a'
giant circular saw blade hanging aboue
each skull and mike stands made out.f 4
chains. There was no doubt they wq%
gonna put on a show tonight. Hitting the
stage after a recording of "The End
by the Doors, W.A.S.P. opened up with.
the cruncher "On Your Knees" ag
then went into the mellower "Tbg
Flame". The first two songs would set
the pattern for the rest of the W.A.SP.
repertoire, which was high in energy vi,
ocassionally fell out of sync. The mglg
reason for this lack of beat were ney 4
drummer Stephen Riley's ill-timed;
fills.
After playing "Hellion" to thl
hilt, the lights went dark and the
only sound to be heard was the roar o
grating power saw, a dainty lead if
"L.O.V.E. Machine."

W.A.S.P. turned "L.O.V.E. Machine:?
into an all out jam with Randy Pi#r'
and 'Chris Holmes switching off on'
leads. Chris Holmes was having th'e'
time of his life bouncing around stag"
using his tongue much like Gene SiYW
mons and jamming fast leads. He was
like a child with a new toy. Lights aid
smoke started W.A.S.P. up or
"Sleeping (In the Fire)" and they cort--
pleted their set with an extended ve't
sion of "School Daze".
ti
Blackie Lawless, who wore arm ba
ds with saw blades on them, really put
on a show during "School Daze". Fiistl
he tossed posters of the band into tlie
see HEAVY METAL, page 7
- I

4

......................................... ............... .

Heawen help us
If God had wanted them to be angels, he would have given them wings.
HBO PICTURES IN ASSOCIATION WITH SILVER SCREEN PARTNERS PRESENTS
A MARK CARLINER-DAN WIGUTOW PRODUCTION HEAVEN HELP US
ANDREW McCARTHY-MARY STUART MASTERSON - KEVIN DILLON
MALCOLM DANARE - KATE REID - WALLACE SHAWN
JOHN HEARD AS TIMOTHY AND DONALD SUTHERLAND-'"" JAMES HORNER

TAKE THE LEAD
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BEA FALL
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LEADER

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Singing
Valentines
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QUARTETS
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