Sunday, November 06, 2005

i like jon brion. a lot. (part 2)

The next salvo in the Google campaign. Thanks for humoring me.

Jon Brion, Largo, November 4, 2005: In my old rules of rock tourism, I traveled to see a musician/band only if I could be guaranteed a multiple-night set in one location. *insert knowing laughter here* Though I don't follow that rule any more, it's not a bad one to go by if the opportunity presents itself.

Jon came out around 10:20 and opened with his usual keys work, this time taking the big Casio and the piano for an ominous-sounding passage. My friend's friend remarked the Casio was the first sampling keyboard ever manufactured, and it allowed you to make, like, 1-second samples--a revolution at the time! I'm sure the million other loopers and gizmos onstage took care of that need nowadays.

Jon greeted us with a facetious "Welcome to Perkyfest '05," and this pretty much held for the rest of the night. For whatever reason, our requests didn't really register with him, so the sing-along element didn't kick in. I know as well as anyone that there's more to a Jon Brion night at Largo than goofy covers, but you gotta admit they're sure crowd pleasers. I had to wonder if the previous night's show with Nels had left him with some sort of improv hangover.

Anyway, back to the set. For the next song, he sampled his own grunts and yells, then took to the piano and the celeste for a jazzy riff, while Scott in the sound booth added a funky beat. Jon later unapologetically admitted that it was a "Hey Ya" ripoff, a thought that had crossed my mind. More piano noodling followed and was greeted with a "yeah!" from the crowd. Jon stopped to ask what the guy thought he was hearing in Jon's "farting around." The guy said it sounded like Elliott Smith, but Jon vehemently denied it. In case you couldn't tell, we were off to a fairly disjointed start.

A spacey, reverb-heavy "Over Our Heads" was the first "real" song of the night, and it was lovely, with tons more layers than the studio version. Next up was "Trouble," also with reverb; the song has long been a favorite of mine, but on a couple of passages, Jon changed his phrasing ever so slightly but to devastatingly poignant effect. A couple of song builds ("So I Fell in Love With You" and "I'm Further Along") followed, then he went solo electric for a crunchy, bass-heavy rendition of "Strings That Tie to You," also very unlike the official release available on the Eternal Sunshine soundtrack. After this was a long instrumental guitar passage with elements I couldn't recognize.

He asked for requests, and he settled on the theme from the TV series The Greatest American Hero, which would return in different forms for this portion of the set. He tackled "Play That Funky Music" next, eliciting the only sing-along of the night. He satisfied the "Fame" request by repeating the word about four times--and nothing more--through the vocoder. Up next was a very long song build/medley that encompassed "Nobody Does It Better," "Believe It or Not" (The Greatest American Hero theme), the old Stephen Bishop song "On and On," at least two songs that I didn't recognize, and some other lyrics about Flanagan and beer. He sort of apologized for it by admitting that he felt as if he were "torturing" us. Ah well, it's all part of the show.

R. Kelly came up in the banter but not in the setlist; instead, Jon went with a twangified "Same Thing," which ended up with a big drum build. Moving back to piano, he did Duke Ellington's "Solitude," then finished off the main set with a request for "Knock Yourself Out" on piano and harmonica.

The start of the second set felt jauntier, with a song build of "Happy with You," marked by a different guitar solo as well as Jon's switching between three different guitars. He stuck with the one that promised to stay in tune for a solo electric version of "Love of My Life So Far." Via the piano, we got "Trial and Error"--again, deceptively simple but made all the more gorgeous with a softer line here and there. He stayed on the piano for an instrumental version of "Everything Happens to Me" but turned it back up with a song build for "Before You Broke My Heart," which I believe to be a Jon Brion original (claims to the contrary are welcome, however).

He asked for requests again, but nothing grabbed him. Fortunately, he has his own catalog to choose from, which is exactly what followed. More solo electric for "I'm on a Roll with You," while "Here We Go" got a short synth opening before settling into the main song. It's hard for me to express how much I love that song; it's so perfect, and when I get to hear it with different phrasings, it sounds new. Sure, it's not a trademark Jon Brion reinvention every time à la "Same Thing," but it can be just as effective. "I Believe She's Lying" started out on piano, but for the ending coda freakout, Jon brought in the vocoder, the harmonica, and a hammer--with which he pummeled the piano strings to lay down a rhythm.

Coming close to the end of the set, he put on an old spoken word LP called Influencing Human Behavior, adding synth and celeste accompaniment, as well as some distortion. He capped off the "downtrodden" set by inviting the magical Benmont Tench to the stage for a riveting Hank Snow number called "Tangled Mind" and the ever welcome "Waterloo Sunset," both beautifully rendered. It was the most cheerful Jon looked throughout the night and made for a lovely end to the show.

Set 1
--Casio and piano noodling
--sampled grunts + jazzy piano + celeste
--more jazzy piano
--Over Our Heads [spacey piano, lots of reverb]
--Trouble [piano]
--So I Fell in Love with You [song build]
--I'm Further Along [song build]
--Strings that Tie to You [electric guitar]
--electric guitar noodling
--Greatest American Hero theme [instrumental; piano]
--Play That Funky Music/Greatest American Hero [celeste, vocoder, synth]
--Fame [vocoder, synth]
--???/Nobody Does It Better/American Hero/??? [song build]
--Same Thing [electric guitar]
--Solitude [piano]
--Knock Yourself Out [piano, harmonica]

Set 2
--Happy with You [song build]
--Love of My Life So Far [electric guitar]
--Trial and Error [piano]
--Everything Happens to Me [instrumental, piano]
--Before You Broke My Heart [song build]
--On a Roll with You [electric guitar]
--Here We Go [synth, piano]
--I Believe She's Lying [piano, vocoder, hammer, harmonica]
--Influencing Human Behavior LP + knobs/distortion + synths + celeste
--Tangled Mind *
--Waterloo Sunset *

* = with Benmont Tench

See also:
» i like jon brion. a lot. (part 1)
» top 5 Largo memories
» let your heart be light

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