There's no way I can be brief. Get yourself a cool glass of something or other, 'cos this is gonna take a while.
Jon Brion, Largo, June 17, 2005: First off, the setlist:
I Wanna Roll with You (new song)
'Round Midnight (Thelonius Monk)
Maybe You're a Different Girl/Love Will Keep Us Together (Captain and Tennille)/Maybe You're a Different Girl (new song)
Trial and Error (new song)
Knock Yourself Out
Under My Thumb (Rolling Stones)/Jeepster (T. Rex)/Under My Thumb
Mr. Rogers theme
Starman (David Bowie)
Crimson & Clover (Tommy James & The Shondells)
I Believe She's Lying
God Only Knows (Beach Boys)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)
I Was Happy with You (new song)
You Don't Know What Love Is (Chet Baker)
Ruin My Day
Over Our Heads
If I Only Had a Brain (Wizard of Oz)/Singing in the Rain (Gene Kelly)/If I Only Had a Brain/Moon River (Henry Mancini)/Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head/Eternal Sunshine music/Here We Go
Someone to Watch Over Me
Strings That Tie to You
I'm Further Along (new song)
I Want to Hold Your Hand (Beatles)/Just What I Needed (the Cars)/White Lines (Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five)
Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
You're the Love of My Life So Far (new song)
Baby Elephant Walk (Henry Mancini)
Lady Stardust (Bowie)
Oh You Pretty Things (Bowie)
Anarchy in the UK (Sex Pistols)
Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks)
If you're still reading, I'll linger over the finer details.
Frankly, I was a little worried at the beginning of Jon's set. Though he started with the chipper "I Wanna Roll With You" after a short bout of piano and synth noodling, he announced that the two songs to follow would constitute a "public soundcheck," then promptly dragged out "'Round Midnight." I love his meandering turns as much as anyone, but I didn't necessarily want him to start the night with them. But after he navigated that chestnut, he picked up with "soundcheck part 2," which turned out to be a song build of "Maybe You're a Different Girl," with what sounded like a very long piano and bass outro. Instead, it melded into a bombastic, bass-laden version of "Love Will Keep Us Together" before returning to "Maybe You're a Different Girl." This would turn out to be a theme of the night: the reprise.
Next was a straightforward and gorgeous "Trial and Error" on the piano, then an "ode to seeming randomness," the wonderful "Knock Yourself Out," in Dylan style with harmonica and acoustic guitar. Remaining on the acoustic, he went into a jaunty "Under My Thumb." I want to say it was almost a skiffle version, it was so upbeat. In the middle of the song, he inserted a couple of verses of "Jeepster" before coming back to "Under My Thumb." At some point during this whole passage, he thanked the crowd for joining him for his "first song" and acknowledged that it took a long time in coming. Also, he pretended to have a fight with his acoustic, admonishing it for forcing their embarrassing scene in public.
I believe that at somewhere in this progression, he had started asking for requests, which is somewhat unusual for his early set. The last few times I've seen him, that's more of a second-set protocol, but of course, the crowd was willing to join in. He did a few bars of the Mr. Rogers theme on the toy piano before embarking on "Starman" on the acoustic guitar. He took a moment or two to jog his memory of the lyrics, but it's another one of those songs that everyone just wants to get to the chorus, and in that respect, we chipped in. He did, like, a sentence of "Crimson and Clover," but instead focused his energy on a song build of "I Believe She's Lying." Again on the reprise theme, when we thought the song was over, he did what seemed almost like a reverse build, taking apart each layer and, as my friend David pointed out, elaborating on one of the song's main chord progressions (as if I know what that means).
Chugging along with requests and with the stout, Jon promised to be a "live karaoke machine--on Guinness" and played one of his favorites, "God Only Knows." I'm proud to say that the audience contributed tons of harmony. Next was "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," followed by his own "I Was Happy with You." A voice in the darkness requested "You Don't Know What Love Is." Jon responded with a laughing "ha" and played a gorgeous, smoky version of the song. Finally, he ended with the piano-and-harmonica version of "Ruin My Day."
For the second set, he again sat down at the piano and asked for requests, starting with "Over Our Heads." Then he did a long instrumental turn that concluded with "Here We Go." For "Someone to Watch Over Me," he let the twin pianos do the speaking. Two of his own songs followed, then he went back to the drums for what sounded like "Tusk." Annie, however, told me it wasn't the exact song, though I heard enough of a resemblance to jump to my own conclusions. Next came "Trouble" on the piano (I wanted to hear it so badly that night too). Back with the requests, Jon stayed on the piano for a charming, midpace pop jaunt. It took me about a minute before I realized he was rearranging "I Want to Hold Your Hand" as a lush middle-era Beatles number. That somehow led to the same treatment for "Just What I Needed," and with lots of manipulation and huge push on bass, it morphed into "White Lines." I'm not sure how it happened either, but it was fun to hear and watch.
Once again, to the acoustic guitar, this time for "Comfortably Numb" and "You're the Love of My Life So Far." He returned to the piano for "Baby Elephant Walk," which he said always made him think of the Capital City Goofball (indeed, a classic Simpsons episode). From there, he hit a couple of Bowie tunes, then honored Sami's request for Tom Waits doing a song by "some old British band." No, it wasn't Radiohead. Instead, it was the Sex Pistols. At the very end of the show, among the many voices, a woman shouted out a request for "your favorite song." He left us with "Waterloo Sunset" and rode off into it himself. (OK, not really; he actually stood near the exit and greeted well wishers and fans. He even took a picture with Annie and Luong.)
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