Monday, August 29, 2005

unplug the jukebox and do us all a favour

The VMAs are on, and Eric Roberts is promising that the next chapter in R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" saga is about to be revealed. That's a sure sign I should stop watching TV and post my very longwinded Largo report (it's getting worse and worse, isn't it?):

Jon Brion, Largo, August 26, 2005: Brianne and Gina chose to wrap up their California tour with a night at Largo, so who am I to refuse? Or in this case, invite myself to join their reservation? Setlist first, report following:

set 1
--Jaws theme/disjointed piano music/ragtime stomp/delicate toy piano stuff
--I'm on a Roll with You (piano and harmonica)
--Walking Through Walls (song build; with Grant Lee Phillips)/Sunny Afternoon/Walking Through Walls
--Ruin My Day (piano)
--You're the Love of My Life So Far (acoustic guitar)
--Same Thing (acoustic guitar)
--Tusk (song build)
--The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get/One Step Ahead (song build)
--More Than a Feeling/Norwegian Wood/Let's Get It On/Harry Nilsson?/Stairway to Heaven/many others
--Ant Music/metal songs/I Want Candy

set 2
with Fiona Apple
--Extraordinary Machine
--After You've Gone
--Fast As You Can
--I'm Beginning to See the Light
with Robyn Hitchcock
--If I Only Had a Brain
--You Remind Me of You
--new song? ("Luckiness in love/Lucky as it strikes you/Lucky in your veins")
--new song? ("Walk into the room/And the music hits you/You live in a ballon")
--Nietzsche's Way
with Grant Lee Phillips
--"there's no easy come easy go"
--Wave of Mutilation
--Knock Yourself Out
waiting for Sarah and Sean Watkins
--White Lines/Another One Bites the Dust/Star Wars cantina theme
with Sarah and Sean
--She's Got You
--She Belongs to Me
just Jon
--Bugs Bunny chase theme/In the Mood/Peter Gunn/Godfather/The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly/Someone to Watch Over Me/Mission Impossible

Before the show even began, we saw Sam Jones at the bar, though sadly, no members of Wilco were with him this time. Shortly after, at 10:30, Flanagan took the mic and introduced the man of the night with some rambling about his new album coming out on Tuesday and how they were shipping only 2 million copies and how we should really buy it. Jon asked how it became his album, but we all knew he was referring to the new Kanye West record. Between Late Registration and the long-awaited official release of Extraordinary Machine, the Google alerts have been burning up my in-box. It's a good time to be a Jon Brion appreciator.

Jon started off with his usual piano noodling, opening with the Jaws theme but quickly moving into completely foreign and diverse territory. At most, I recognize half of what he does. This time, I truly had no idea, but that doesn't mean a whole lot, considering the huge holes in my musical knowledge. Sufficiently warmed up, he launched into a string of his own songs. Little did we know it would be pretty much the only original material he did that night. As a bonus, during "Walking Through Walls," we saw a mysterious figure quickly crawl (on his hands and knees, no less) to the stage. Our questions were soon answered when we saw the splendid Grant Lee Phillips pop up on piano and backing vocals. Hey, he's half responsible for the song and is certainly entitled to a cameo. He disappeared just as quickly as he had shown up, moving Jon to comment that it's a good night when Grant Lee appears out of the blue. (Of course, it helps that Grant's show was scheduled for Largo the following night.) The scene reminded me of my first shows at Largo, where I went to see him, but that Jon Brion guy would show up every time and do cool stuff.

After "Love of My Life So Far," he continued on acoustic guitar with a long intro that sounded vaguely out of tune to me. It turned out to be the old chestnut "Same Thing" instead, once again reinterpreted. It was notable in that I've never seen Jon on only acoustic guitar before. Instead, he usually tackles it as a song build or on piano, using the strings for the rhythm tracks.

At this point, I can't remember if he explicitly asked for suggestions or if it came from an unsolicited heckler, but someone yelled out, "Drums!" That brought on what sounded like "Tusk" to me. He next asked for requests, which brought on "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer You Get." He launched into it with no hesitation, though he noted that he was playing it with the "One Step Ahead" rhythm. Together, the two songs represent, like, half of my teenage years, but I had never noticed the resemblance before. Anyway, he treated them as a medley, transitioning between them a couple of times. Hell, I happen to love that Morrissey album, but god knows I haven't listened to it in a while and can barely remember the lyrics. If Jon suffers the same amnesia, you wouldn't know it from the way he jumps into a tune, without abandon.

The requests continued, with shout-outs to Journey, for example, which prompted Jon to remind us to be careful what we ask for, as he would play Journey until the cows come home. Instead, we got a long medley, and my favorite was "Norwegian Wood" on what I believe is the celeste, though I've often referred to it as the toy piano (you would too if you've seen it), with a transition to "Let's Get It On." Thankfully, Jon didn't really attempt the vocal--you know there's no comparison to Marvin--but he did a bunch of the yelps, and there are few songs that instantly capture and move an audience better than that one. During the long version, wouldn't you know it, of "Stairway to Heaven," Jon joked about getting Brad Mehldau to cover it. There were many others, but I can't tell you what they were.

Still on the request tip, Jon stood patiently onstage and waited for the right song to jump out at him among the onslaught of voices so that he could conclude the first set. This went on for a while with no resolution--until a computerized voice over the PA requested Van Halen. Jon thanked Max Headroom for the request and honored it. I don't know anything about '80s metal, so I can't say if he did any actual Van Halen songs. All I know is that he commented that it would be Van Halen in the style of Adam Ant, as they both came from the '80s. I recognized "Ant Music" and "I Want Candy," as well as some Eddie-style licks in the guitar maelstrom, but my speculation ends there.

The second set started out with an appearance by Fiona Apple--I believe her fourth in as many weeks. Tons of speculation are flying around the long-delayed release of Extraordinary Machine and Jon's diminished or at least mediated contribution to the record, but onstage, they seemed to be as buddy-buddy as ever. Jon took the acoustic guitar and chipped in with backing vocals on a couple of songs, but on the whole, he stayed in the background and let Fiona sing her heart out.

Next up, Jon scrounged up all his psychokinetic powers to summon Robyn Hitchcock. (During the break, we had recognized him among the luminaries hanging out by the kitchen. It shouldn't have been a surprise, given that the Largo answering machine had confirmed that he would be Grant's special guest the next night.) Robyn was his usual surreal self, rambling about who knows what. He and Jon were reportedly working on Robyn's album last year, and Robyn referred to it a few times. Most notably, he requested that the two of them perform the song that Jon had played radiator on, but Jon demurred that he had played radiator on many songs. I think Robyn did at least two new songs, but again, I'm totally guessing.

Grant, my old favorite, returned to the stage for a song I didn't recognize, followed by the Pixies cover. Along the way, he also confessed his love of Rock Star INXS, complete with a great imitation of the dialogue from the show. He tried to get Jon to step in, but Jon kept saying that he was only following and that he had checked his brains at the door. Finally, Grant requested that Jon do one of his own songs, which brought "Knock Yourself Out" to light.

Just when we thought that we had already seen a full parade of stars, Jon invited up Sarah and Sean Watkins from Nickel Creek. Sarah wasn't prepared and had to run back to the car to get her violin--odd, considering she had been hanging out all night. Jon filled the interim with a request for "White Lines," seguing into "Another One Bites the Dust," and finally the cantina theme from Star Wars.

Sarah returned and after some negotiation, they all did a song called "She's Got You." Sean took the next, a Dylan cover, and that was it from them.

As a roar of requests flew at him, Jon closed the night with a song build of what sounded like (to these ignorant ears) the chase theme from Bugs Bunny cartoons, followed by a long medley of a million movie themes done in the style of Dick Dale. I noted as many as I could, but I can already tell you I missed a multitude. I wonder if it's an allusion to his work on the next Paul Thomas Anderson movie, but I may be thinking too linearly. Whatever the case, I got a huge kick of hearing the theme from The Godfather done as a surf anthem.

It was 2am, and another night at Largo had come to an end. I'll have to survive September without my fix, but October awaits. I can barely contain myself.

See also:
» top 5 Largo memories
» let your heart be light
» get a load of the lengths I go to

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