Mark Jonathan Davis, or Richard Cheese as he is known on stage, graced the House of Blues New Orleans with his comedic and musical stylings. Born in New York, Cheese has put out almost twenty albums since he started in 2000. Although he hasn’t played in New Orleans for at least 5 years, the venue was packed with loyal fans.
Richard Cheese is famous for his musical parodies and his characteristic stage presence. His character is a vegas-style lounge singer reminiscent of Dean Martin and Tony Bennett, in which he adorns tacky, patterned tuxedos and brandishes martinis onstage. His music is just as cheesy. He takes famous songs of all kinds and gives them a feel of swing lounge music. The kick is that the songs are almost always taken in the opposite direction of the original emotion they were written to convey. For example, he most often uses songs with vulgar themes from the metal and hip hop genres, singing the lyrics verbatim in a classy smooth tone on top of a steady jazz swing. If the original version of a tune is dark or heavy, his parody will most likely be inappropriately upbeat. His take on Slipknot’s “People = Shit” is contrastingly happy and is something you could imagine whistling while walking down the street. If the classic is already upbeat, he’ll slow it down to a Bossanova and keep it understated. He even has a full album of Christmas style parodies and another album of famous TV show themes in jazz parody.
His vocal range is great and he does an excellent job reproducing it live. At the start of the show, Richard Cheese announces to the crowd his rules for being courteous to the band and to other audience members. He is then played onto the stage by his band, Lounge Against the Machine, martini in hand. The band has changed members over the years, as Cheese is the only one remaining from the original line-up, but they consistently adopt stage names with cheese puns. On piano is Bobby Ricotta, on drums is Frank Feta, and Billy Bleu plays the bass.
Despite his rules for behavior during the performance, Cheese was a very good sport with the crowd. He remembered names of people he heckled and gave away free merchandise such as CDs and t-shirts. Between songs he kept the crowd laughing with improvised bits relating to the audience members, he had singled out. The greatest part is whether you’ve heard of him or not, you can’t help but sing along with Richard Cheese because he takes your favorites, or even your least favorites, and gives them a new reason to be enjoyed.