Note: I started writing this two weeks ago, but I only got around to finishing it now. Please forgive the untimely nature of this post.
Jon Brion, Largo, July 15, 2005: I love LA! No, really, I do, and I think some of my friends are starting to soften up too. What a glorious weekend, and of course, the centerpiece was time spent with dear friends and a wonderful time at Largo. Of course, you know I'm gonna drop the setlist first [compiled with help from Heidi], details following:
Jill Sobule opener
--One of These Days
--Waiting for the Rapture
--Hot in Herre (+ Jon Brion on piano)
Jon Brion set 1
--Ruin My Day
--Midnight Cowboy theme + Fur Elise
--Love of My Life So Far (acoustic guitar)
--"welcome to the beginning of the set"
--I Was Happy with You (song build; crunchy guitar end)
--Why Do You Do This to Yourself (very twangy)
--Everytime We Say Good-bye (heavy, heavy guitar)
--Lady Stardust (piano)
--??? [lyrics: "Happiness is overdue/many other lyrics/But you left me/But you left me/But you left me..."]
--Knock Yourself Out
--Trial and Error
--Maybe You're a Different Girl
--Punch-Drunk Theme/Here We Go
Jon Brion set 2
--piano/synth megamedley [Abracadabra/Band on the Run/Chariots of Fire/Don't Go/For Your Love/Wicked Witch theme from Wizard of Oz/Tocatta in D minor/ Rhapsody in Blue, among many others]
--This Is Where I Belong
--It Looks Like You
--??? (lyrics: "Can I come over to you/untranslatable lyrics/Baby, can I ride your plane/Just let me come over to you")
--Me Myself and I
--Stop Your Sobbing
--spacey keyboard/toy piano interlude
--I'm Further Along
--piano/toy piano instrumental jag: Over Our Heads (?)/Someday We'll Be Together
--Someone to Watch Over Me (song build)
--Happy Birthday Kelsey
--Working on the Railroad (harmonica)
--I'm on a Roll With You (piano + harmonica)
--All in the Family theme/Waiting at the End of the Road [Fats Waller version]
--Strings That Tie to You (piano)
The evening started with a short surprise set by Jill Sobule, who was positively wonderful. Her songs were very fun, and she introduced "Hot in Herre" by explaining that there were certain songs she liked to do but didn't seem right played by a girl on an acoustic guitar. Regardless, the Nelly song got the whole crowd singing along. For that tune, Jon Brion ran from somewhere in the back and joined in on piano, only to run away back into the darkness at the end of the song. It figures he wouldn't be able to resist joining in for a raucous cover.
I've seen a lot more Largo shows this year than usual, so it's interesting to witness how Jon does and doesn't repeat himself. That's not a bad thing, but it gives me a slightly different perspective on his performances. He started off with a lovely piano interlude, which I'm sure delighted Heidi. I can't begin to guess what was in that segment, but it sounded divine. If she weren't already happy, I'm sure she got a kick of his "real" opening number, the always wonderful "Ruin My Day." I can't recall if he asked for requests or if someone just yelled it out, but the Midnight Cowboy theme (?) came via a suggestion from the crowd.
Off to the guitar for a few songs characterized by particularly heavy licks, then back to the piano for "Lady Stardust." I think he mentioned something about how much he loves Bowie--like anyone can blame him! The song after was fairly strident-sounding, or at least as strident as what was, at heart, a pop ditty can be. At the end, he said something about that's the sort of bitter, jaded stuff you write when you're in your 20s, which leads me to believe it's one of his songs. He turned that around with "Knock Yourself Out," just about as unjaded and unbitter a song you could pick from his oeuvre.
The second set opened with Jon drinking a beer and good-naturedly asking us "how the fuck" we were doing. As he mentioned when I asked him about June touring plans, he had indeed been in London to do some recording and hadn't performed for about three weeks. He seemed to miss the crowd and acted as if he were surprised anyone would come back. (Eh!?) Anyway, he jumped back on the piano, and I have to agree with many of my friends who think that's his best instrument. Granted, I love watching him on drums, but the piano just suits his talents and his voice so well.
He did a long medley of a million different songs that I couldn't really keep track of. I was shocked to hear him do "Don't Go" by Yaz! I guess I think of him as such a '60s and '70s guy, but of course, he was probably the right age during the '80s to take in the trendy stuff too. Following the Kinks song, he gushed about Ray Davies's brilliance and how he should be hailed across the land for his musical talents. I think Jon did a new song; at the very least, I couldn't Google the lyrics I managed to jot down. It was a fun, rocking number, at least. For the My Bloody Valentine request, Jon had to take a few minutes to jog his memory, so he worked out the thread of the song on piano in, like, double time before he ran over to the drums, then back to the guitar. That's one of the songs I associate with my college years and the whole shoegazing trend, and it still tickles me to think that all the time later, I'd be watching one man doing it onstage in real time. Hell, maybe Jon likes that they take longer on their follow-up album than he has!
Then came the highlight of the set: "Stop Your Sobbing" done low and sexy, just barely a murmur, and with no accompaniment other than the effects pedals. No, he didn't use the guitar--only the pedals. Oh yeah. It was wonderful.
"Someday We'll Be Together" came at the end of a long piano interlude, and it put a huge smile on my face when I finally recognized the tune. Jon didn't sing it except for the "yes we will/yes we will" part, but the spirit of the song certainly came through. "Someone to Watch Over Me" sounded almost Ziggy Stardust-esque to me, with a huge swooping chorus that I find hard to believe the Gershwins originally envisioned, but it was great nonetheless.
He seemed to really want to play until the bitter end for this, his return to the stage. It makes me think that maybe he needs us as much as we need him. :) Anyway, as he was nearing the 2 a.m. mark, he asked for requests, resulting in the "All in the Family" theme. As he played the song, he said it made him think of the Fats Waller version of the Irving Berlin song, "Waiting at the End of the Road." In what Largo regulars know as a typically Brionesque move but what may sound like crazy talk to anyone who hasn't seen Jon, he seamlessly melded the two before returning to "All in the Family." Finally, he ended with "Strings That Tie to You." Sigh.
On my way to the bathroom, I ran into Jon and asked if the "I'm further along" song is (a) his, and (b) gonna be on his new album. He said yes to both, also noting that he has two albums coming out. Of course, with Jon, he's been talking about releasing any number of albums over the years, so who knows when the hell we'll ever see them? According to recent news, one of the albums may be the score to the next Paul Thomas Anderson movie, so at least there are real deadlines involved. Then again, a Jon Brion fan is well acquainted with that old virtue: patience. And for those of us who aren't, there's always Largo on Friday nights. Tee hee.
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