Come for the voice, stay for the lyrics. Freedy Johnston's luminescent Kansas-Hoboken plainness would suit either the country or R&B he skirts, if not the bossa nova he adores, because his inflection-free emphasis on lovely pop melodies transcends persona. That leaves his unreliable narrators more vivid: "Don't Fall in Love with a Lonely Girl," off his new album recorded in Nashville, Rain on the City, is catchy romantic doom as Juliana Hatfield might imagine it, while "Livin' Too Close to the Rio Grande" is a great road/river song ("Between the wife and the ex and the government...I never met a dollar that wasn't spent") informed by the soulful ease he otherwise displays on "The Devil Raises His Own." None of those might be essential to non-fans the way his '90s hit "Bad Reputation" or sophomore album were to many, but they enrich a live greatest-hits worth catching, this time at a venue that guarantees intimacy. If the grownup Taste of Minnesota hecklers pay their way in, Johnston will have to challenge them to a bowling game.
Thu., Jan. 21, 9:30 p.m., 2010
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