Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I'm offering this simple phrase

If, heaven forbid, I were able to see only one Jon Brion show each year, I'd cry a lot, and I'd probably try to figure out a way around the rules, but I wouldn't hesitate to save a very particular date. Without a doubt, I'd catch Jon's last Largo show of the calendar year. See below for details.

Jon Brion, Largo, December 22, 2006: Whimsy and compulsion in equal measures moved me to hit Jon Brion's last show of 2005. But by the time we picked our jaws off the floor and left the premises that night, I vowed to Annie we'd do it again every year. Fast-forward 365 days, and we were back at Largo's door.

Now more than ever, you can't predict the direction of any Jon Brion gig. Since returning from his tendonitis-incurred break, Jon's shows have had their ups and downs, though fangirl that I am, I always find something to take away from each. So despite the panoply of Largo regulars hanging out by the kitchen before the show started, we tried hard not to read too much into their presence.

One of these familiar faces opened the show: Paul F. Tompkins, who I've now seen four times this month. Fortunately, I think he's great, and he ranks up there with Patton Oswalt as one of my favorite comics. He did a couple of bits that were new to me, including a commentary on the Largo menu that could've been a verbatim conversation between me and anyone I've ever brought to the club. In addition to almost making me choke on my Midori sour, he introduced the second opener of the night: E, from the eels.

I won't bore you too much with another paean to the eels; besides, it's all there in my frequently (overly?) cited post on my first full-fledged Jon Brion show.

E's trademarks were in full bloom: his charming and slightly skewed observational songs, as well as his bone-dry humor. After a couple of tunes, he brought out a "kid" he'd known for a long time and who, he claimed, looked up to him to see what it meant to have made it. The youngster turned out to be Jon Brion, who played along with the premise (a squeaky-voiced "thanks mister") as he joined E on keyboards for a couple of tracks. "Climbing Up to the Moon" saw Jon adding a tiny touch of crotales, while "Everything's Going to Be Cool This Christmas" was graced with his backing vocals, and I believe we got a hint of "Jingle Bells" in the latter's outro. True to form, E groused about technical problems, but from our table, he sounded fine.

After a short break, Jon returned with a story about how he once pissed off the audience by doing Christmas songs in August. This turned out to be a bit of a warning; he started on the piano with what sounded like a deconstructed "Jingle Bells" but turned toward "Hot Fun in the Summertime" and "Surfer Girl" before returning to "Jingle Bells." Still at the piano, he churned out a very lovely piano opening that took a little while to coalesce into "Meaningless," complete with more Christmas cues.

Then it was over to the drums for a song build of "I Believe She's Lying" and, next, over to the harmonica, an electric guitar, and lots of slapback for--no, not "Why Do You Do This to Yourself." Rather, it was "Ruin My Day" in a treatment I hadn't heard before. Somewhere in there, Jon looked out at the room with a beatific grin--further assurance that we were in for a great night.

The drums got another workout with a song build of "Walking Through Walls," which featured a bluesy guitar breakdown toward the middle. "Hook Line and Sinker" came next on the electric guitar; I'm not sure if we owe the heavy metal touches around the end of the song to a musical misstep on Jon's part, but he proceeded without hesitation, a raised fist accompanying the power chords.

This unprecedented (for me) Meaningless streak continued with "Trouble" on piano, complete with a gorgeous extended jazzy instrumental passage. It brought to mind Brad Mehldau's turn on the song on the widely distributed Tonic bootleg, except less abstract, if that makes any sense. Regardless, it was gorgeous. After remaining on piano for "Same Mistakes," Jon shook it up with a song build of "Happy with You."

For the next selection, Jon tuned his guitar and asked us how our year went. He seemed surprised by our mostly positive reaction. When asked the same, he replied that his year had big ups and big downs, but they mostly cancelled themselves out. Somewhere during this lull, I blurted out a request to play the rest of Meaningless, and he sort of obliged with about one line from each of the remaining songs ("Her Ghost," "Voices," and "Gotta Start Somewhere," to be exact). Heh.

Jon resumed with a tribute to Les Paul, a familiar point of reference. A few minutes into the song, he explained that he could never reproduce Mary Ford's parts, so he brought out a guest who could: the actress Zooey Deschanel, who turned out to be as adorable as you can imagine. She quickly proved that she had a set of jazzy, sassy, and playful pipes to match her demeanor. Though she claimed that they messed up "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," I have absolutely no complaints about their five-song set. Zooey even ventured to the ukulele on the last selection, though she warned us that she didn't usually do so in front of people. Meanwhile, Jon added harmonies and a couple of guitar solos, but he mostly stayed in the background.

Jon closed out the set with a grunge-like "Knock Yourself Out" that featured a slowed-down coda, but not before promising us we'd get a second set--the first since his arm injury--in the spirit of holiday cheer.

Largo was seriously hopping in a way I hadn't seen in a long time, and I almost didn't know what to do with myself during the between-set break. Thankfully, Jon returned with a song build of "Girl I Knew," a tune that always reminds me of driving down the PCH. And with Jon wielding a hollow-body Rickenbacker, that Byrdsian, sun-kissed feel was never more apparent than it was tonight.

Benmont Tench was the first friend called up for the second set, and together, the two of them tackled a couple of songs I hadn't heard at Largo before. Next, Jon invited Zach Gray (sp?) to join them for "double-keyboard madness." Perched on the piano bench with Benmont, Zach was entrusted with the celeste and Jon's advice to "hit the black keys and magic happens." Zach delivered nicely on "Stop the World," one of Jon's more celeste-appropriate tunes, though we could see him peering back at Benmont for musical cues throughout the night.

E was the third recruit, and he took the drums--which Jon said was the only way to get a singer/songwriter to stay for the whole set. Judging from Largo appearances by Neil Finn, Robyn Hitchcock, and Gillian Welch, to name a few, I'd have to agree with him. The group took a little while to figure out what to do next, and though they floated the idea of a holiday song, they took it in the other direction with "Happiness Is a Warm Gun." We even got a bit of an audience singalong ("bang bang shoot shoot") on the chorus. Upon completing the song, they joked about testing E with its different time signatures, and in return, he quipped that they had to do "the Beatles' only prog song."

Jon informed the audience that the band took requests, and that's exactly how they picked up "Raspberry Beret." Jon claimed to not know the words, but he launched into the first verse anyway. When he could proceed no further, E assumed vocal duties, down to Prince's every whoop and trill. The audience kicked in too!

(An aside: Though I can't claim any definitive word on Largo's history, I can say that "Raspberry Beret" is a very popular request at Jon's shows, but I, for one, have never heard him actually play it. Until now.)

I can't remember how "Billie Jean" came about, only that Jon asked Gus (?) to join them. It soon became apparent that he didn't know the lyrics at all, though he was willing to make them up as he went along. Jon threatened to bring Flanagan up to sing and peered expectantly back to the kitchen for a glimpse of the big guy, but he happened to go MIA for the duration of the song. Instead, we got Jon and Gus sharing the lead, and we'll have to wait another day to hear Flanagan's vocal stylings.

Sean Watkins was the next guest on the block, and after a short conference, they invited Zooey back for "Frosty the Snowman." It didn't take long for her to exhaust her knowledge of the words to the song, so she spent about half the time vamping and calmly leafing through the lyrics book before finding the entry. Her spirited, lively take was vastly different from Fiona's interpretation the night before, but she made it her own. At her suggestion, they went with "Silent Night," though I'm not sure who decided to make it rockabilly. Regardless, it turned out to be unutterably cool.

By this point, Flanagan had managed to return and push Paul F. Tompkins back onstage for his song about Hanukkah sung to the tune of "Ring of Fire." If you saw Aimee Mann's recent Christmas shows, you'll know this song. Jon watched on, smiling directly at Paul the whole time.

After a brief huddle, Sean Watkins finally got his time in the sun with "Write Myself a Letter," with Jon contributing harmonies. And though it felt like no time had gone by, it was that dreaded closing hour, and Jon bestowed upon us a double dose of "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire," first done in a power pop style, then à la Sonic Youth to an alarmingly accurate degree.

At this rate, I may camp out at Largo all week next year.

Paul F. Tompkins (opener)

E (opener)
--Grace Kelly Blues
--It's a Motherfucker
--Climbing Up to the Moon [with Jon Brion]
--Everything's Going to Be Cool This Christmas [with Jon]

Jon Brion (set one)
--Hot Fun in the Summertime/Surfer Girl
--I Believe She's Lying
--Ruin My Day
--Walking Through Walls
--Hook Line and Sinker
--Same Mistakes
--Happy with You
--The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise [with Zooey Deschanel]
--I Really Don't Want to Know [with Zooey]
--Swing Low Sweet Chariot [with Zooey]
--On the Sunny Side of the Street [with Zooey]
--I Can't Give You Anything but Love [with Zooey]
--Knock Yourself Out

Jon Brion + friends (set two)
--Girl I Knew
--My Back Pages [with Benmont Tench]
--I Go to Pieces [with Benmont]
--Stop the World [with Benmont and Zach Gray (?)]
--Happiness Is a Warm Gun [with Benmont, Zach, and E]
--Raspberry Beret [with Benmont, Zach, and E]
--Billie Jean [with Benmont, Zach, E, and Gus (?)]
--Frosty the Snowman [with Benmont, Zach, E, Gus, Zooey, and Sean Watkins]
--Silent Night [with Benmont, Zach, E, Gus, Zooey, and Sean Watkins]
--Paul F. Tompkins's Hanukkah song sung to the tune of "Ring of Fire" [with Benmont, Zach, E, Sean, and Paul]
--Write Myself a Letter [with Benmont, Zach, E, and Sean]
--Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (power pop version) [with Benmont, Zach, E, and Sean]
--Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (Sonic Youth version) [with Benmont, Zach, E, and Sean]

See also:
» let your heart be light
» public service announcement
» wherever there is comfort, there is pain
» Take Me Home, Country Pigeon
» Gillian, David, Sean, Sara, Jon, and Greg
» been hoping that you'd drop in
» it's not going to stop

Monday, December 25, 2006

happy holidays

To celebrate the holidays, I'm rounding up the handful of MP3s littered about this site. I'll be back in a day or so with the exhaustive (and exhausting) rundown of the Jon Brion show from this Friday.

MP3s galore:
» public service non-announcement
» when you reach Kyoto, send a postcard if you can
» i like jon brion. a lot. (part 3)
» get a load of the lengths I go to
» 'til I'm blue in the face

Saturday, December 23, 2006

been hoping that you'd drop in

I'm working my way through only-at-Largo events, and the Watkins Family Hour has come up. Finally, a real-world application of my former rules of rock tourism (rule number two: cram as many shows into a single trip as possible)!

The Watkins Family Hour, Largo, December 21, 2006: Somewhere during my slow sidle toward twang, Nickel Creek popped up, and to be perfectly honest, I was skeptical for no good reason other than my own idiosyncratic bias. But on the strength of other people's recommendations and their own sterling reputation, I caught them once, though it was from afar at a music festival while I waited for Wilco to come onstage. It helped that they did Jon Brion's "Trouble" that day as well.

But over the years, Sara and Sean Watkins have won me over with their appearances at Largo, and tonight was my opportunity to see them on their own merits. Sure, the message on Largo's answering machine promised surprise guests, but the tease hasn't been a motivating factor for me for a long time. Rather, I just wanted to hear some good music in a welcoming environment. Considering Sean and Sara's substantial catalog of titles, as well as their treasure trove of favorite covers, I knew that I wouldn't have to worry about the night's song selection.

Thanks to Evonne's tip, I knew that the Watkins Family Hour is an incredibly loose affair, with a lot of song decisions settled by audibles and impromptu consultations, à la what may be my favorite show of the year and nearly every multiple-artist congregation I've ever witnessed at Largo.

The show started off seemingly deliberately, with just Sean and Sara onstage, but almost immediately, they were joined by Benmont Tench on piano, then by Mike Witcher on dobro. In what I take to be the norm at Largo, the players traded off solo turns for each song. Benmont extended his streak as Largo's ultimate team player, turning out note after endless wonderful note, while somehow maintaining that unassuming, effortless air that only makes you want to hear more of his piano magic. Sean and Sara were both very laid-back leaders, happy to let others take the spotlight as the song required.

As it was the Christmas show, we got to hear a bunch of seasonal favorites, with the help of even more guests. Fiona Apple came out for a couple of songs, including a very different "Frosty the Snowman" than most of us are used to. It was sort of strange to see Fiona's wispy shadow of a figure in contrast to Sara Watkins's glowing health, but leave it to Largo to bring their talents together.

Paul F. Tompkins dropped in as well, and he threw himself into the festivities, including a shambolic but charming version of "Baby It's Cold Outside." He also treated us to his own hilarious material, including a joke about the hidden meaning of the greeting "happy holidays" (translation: "Happy Hanukkah, potential Jewish person").

Finally, toward the end of the show, while the band performed "Different Drum," a lanky figure slipped in through the side door and found a spot for himself and his celeste on the tiny stage. Hey, what do you know? It was Jon Brion, who went to town on the song, accommodations (or lack thereof) be damned.

Though Jon didn't seem to mind either way, Largo staff was able to throw together a couple of milk crates together for him during the between-song break, before Fiona returned for "White Christmas," the faux closer. The band took a short encore break before coming back for the real finale. True to form, they took a little while to decide on how to close the show. At first, it seemed like we'd lose Benmont and Jon, but Sara and Sean lured both of them back; in my book, Sean won brownie points by snaring Jon's participation in his insistence that no Hank Williams track is complete without a celeste.

As far as I'm concerned, Benmont and Jon have carte blanche to do as they please onstage, but I was especially tickled by their respective solos, followed by their dueling keyboards on "Hey Good Looking." In the meantime, Sara and Sean belted out the tune with just the right combination of verve and mischief.

See also:
» Gillian, David, Sean, Sara, Jon, and Greg

Saturday, December 16, 2006

top 5 albums of 2006

I'm not actually a huge album fan. I mean, I buy lots of them, and lord knows I've worn out more than a few favorites. Usually, though, they can't compare to the live performance, and I have to admit, I'm guilty of that cliche: I like the early albums, but the later stuff doesn't usually measure up (ha).

But there were five albums released this year that knocked my socks off and that I feel comfortable pimping. Even stranger, they came out of nowhere; you won't find any of my usual favorites on this list, despite some big-name releases (Flaming Lips, Loose Fur, Decemberists, Golden Smog, Aimee Mann). Otherwise, I can't give you much insight into them, but I offer my endorsement, for what it's worth.

Without further ado:

Brakes, The Beatific Visions1. Brakes, The Beatific Visions
Brakes' first album Give Blood didn't do much for me, despite my amour fou for British Sea Power. In fact, it was probably my BSP appreciation that convinced me to give Brakes another try. Good thing 'cos I would've missed out big time. The Beatific Visions even inspired me to go back to Give Blood, and wouldn't you know it? I can't get enough of that first one now either. The unhinged, scattershot, drug-addled quality that initially turned me off now sounds brilliantly manic and clever. Or maybe I finally got the jokes. (How did I miss the 10-second screed "Cheney" with exactly one lyric: "Don't be such a dick!"?)

I'm sad that British Sea Power will now need a new nutter percussionist/keyboard guy, but when the resulting band is this good, it's no loss at all. Now if only they would tour over here...

2. Midlake, The Trials of Van Occupanther
My most reliable method for discovering new music is to see who's opening for bands I love. There are no guarantees, of course, but sometimes you get lucky.

Midlake, The Trials of Van OccupantherI don't know if the Flaming Lips handpicked Midlake to open or if I have the Noise Pop booking team to thank (though the two bands ended up touring Europe together for a stretch). Regardless, I loved Midlake's sound, as well as their videos and their aesthetic. I mean, they had these artsy black-and-white films filled with both Civil War-looking figures (though not in a joking Decemberists way) along with Orwellian characters. And in the purely idiosyncratic file, I like that six people comprise the band and that two members remind me of people I know. Whew!

When their album was finally released many months later, I was surprised by how their sound translated to the studio. Mostly, I didn't expect the resemblance to Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac (the Lindsey Buckingham titles, anyway) on the opening volley of tracks. As you wend your way through the album, you pick up other influences too, but it's hard to shake that initial impression.

3. Scritti Politti, White Bread Black Beer
Scritti Politti, White Bread Black BeerI don't blame anyone for thinking they know what Scritti Politti sounds like based on their '80s output, but this is a case where no good will come of your preconceptions. Apart from Green's distinctive voice (admittedly, an acquired taste), the album sounds unlike anything Scritti Politti has recorded before. If you had previously thought of Scritti Politti as a dance pop machine, you'll be surprised to discover Green's emergence as a singer/songwriter only slightly removed from the folksy types I gravitate toward these days.

If you didn't grow up with British music in the '80s, I can't come right out and tell you to buy this record. And even if you did grow up in the Reagan years, Green Gartside's long-awaited return might not be reason enough to pick up this disc. But if you're at all intrigued by the critical adulation and/or my less than rigorous reasoning, I hope you'll give it a try.

4. Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3, Olé Tarantula
Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3, Ole TarantulaThere are no new faces in this grouping, and in fact, I saw the main players under another guise earlier this year.

But what I thought I knew about the band didn't prepare me for this record's pure pop love. The bubbly, catchy tunes surpassed anything I've heard from Robyn, Scott, Peter, Bill, and any combination thereof in the past several years. The opening track, "Adventure Rocket Ship" is completely irresistible and makes me want to pogo like a maniac. No Robyn Hitchcock record would be complete without references to insects and other less than savory creatures, but I hardly mind when they're bathed in such endless harmonies. Bottom line: This is a fun record. Isn't that reason enough?

5. Flight of the Conchords, The Complete First Radio 2 Series
Flight of the Conchords, The Complete First Radio 2 SeriesIt feels a little like cheating to include this album, but Flight of the Conchords is a band, I swear!

So yeah, it's a comedy album, but it has a number of their original tunes, including many of the hits (?) performed on their HBO special. Even better, Neil Finn and Greg Proops turn in brilliant cameos. But really, it comes down to Bret and Jemaine and their charming demeanors, wordplay, and songcraft. I can't wait for the Conchords' American invasion.

See also:
» from the books you don't read anyway
» in fact, you're fanatical
» there's nothing I wouldn't do, including doing nothing
» you won't have an atom left
» Hiphopotamus Meets Rhymenocerous
» top 10 concerts of 2006

Saturday, December 09, 2006

wherever there is comfort, there is pain

If you read this at all, feel free to skip straight to the end. Thanks.

Neil Finn, Largo, December 6, 2006: A year-plus of regular Largo attendance has reaped me at least one benefit: an early shot at a table for this surprise show by Neil Finn, one of my longtime favorites. Though it should be clear by now that it doesn't take a whole lot to convince me to jump on a Southwest flight, this was beyond a no-brainer. It's on a par with breathing--pure instinct.

It's been a while since Neil has enjoyed the kind of popularity in the States that puts him in huge venues, and he tends to hit clubs or smaller theaters here. That is, fans still get a relatively intimate experience when they see him. But of course, Largo takes up-close and personal to another level, and the fact that talented friends are likely to drop in cements the gig's must-see factor. Thus, lines for previous Neil shows are legendary, even by Largo's standards, but tonight saw a thinnish crowd. I believe everyone got in, with plenty of room to spare--score one for the fans.

Among the pre-show sights: a spare, uncluttered stage that did not resemble a fire hazard--that is, a customary non-Jon Brion setup. But the presence of the celeste told us not only that Neil was expecting at least one guest tonight but who that guest might be (no stretch of the imagination).

In case you need proof that Neil Finn is Largo royalty, here are two items to consider: Flanagan not only helped Bobb Bruno with guitar tech duties, he also hand-delivered Neil's Guinness to the stage, complete with a napkin. (Jon never gets one!) We also spied the Flight of the Conchords (with dates!) at the door and got our hopes up for an Antipodean extravaganza of a night. Alas, events didn't pan out quite as expected, though there was tons of Southern Hemisphere representation.

The opener was Missy Higgins, a young, lovely Australian singer/songwriter who's apparently quite popular and acclaimed in her native country. Her producer Mitchell Froom played piano on a couple of songs, and she paid tribute to Neil with a story about how she has a recording of herself singing "Better Be Home Soon" when she was a little kid--which probably wasn't that long ago. Even if that didn't make Neil feel old, it certainly put the years in perspective for me.

We had a few theories on what could possibly bring Neil to town, and he answered that question soon enough when he talked about finishing his new album in Los Angeles. And in light of that information, it came as no surprise that the early part of Neil's set featured new songs. They were pretty evenly divided between piano and guitar tunes, with the piano songs inhabiting the more downbeat end of the spectrum. Of the new songs, my favorite was one whose name I didn't catch but that Neil said was written with the Dixie Chicks. For that one, he also asked us to imagine a big psychedelic ending in place of his acoustic treatment.

To no one's surprise, Neil called on Jon Brion to join him for a couple of new songs that Jon hadn't heard before. Jon picked up a big hollow-body Rickenbacker to contribute crisp, clear notes and shades of expression to these unfamiliar tunes. Soon after, Sebastian Steinberg from Soul Coughing and the last version of Neil's touring band rounded out the trio on bass, and not long after that, they picked up a drummer from the audience--a guy named Chris who turned out to be fantastic!

Chris's first trial came from Jon, who mentioned that they used to test out new drummers by making them play "Wipeout." Chris obliged, accompanied by Jon and Sebastian, and he totally owned it. He had pretty much passed the audition by that point, but the next phase came in the form of a Ventures romp while Neil tuned.

Neil sounded a tiny bit apologetic when he said that they actually knew the next song, but it was "Distant Sun," for which he never needs to excuse himself. With Neil's encouragement, Jon unleashed a gorgeous guitar solo that I don't recall in the original.

Jon jumped to the piano and celeste for the next few songs, and on "Sinner," he did this neat tickling thing on the piano keys--I can't really say anything else about it except that it was really cool. "The In Crowd" came during one of Neil's many tuning breaks, when the band asked for requests--and got one from Mitchell Froom. Mitchell's outburst prompted Neil to share a story about hearing Mitchell sing one of Neil's songs back to him. Imagine the chorus from "Don't Dream It's Over" in a flat, clipped tone, if you can; according to Neil, that's how Mitchell heard the song.

Neil explained that they had recorded two versions of "All God's Children," and he started out with the one not commonly heard: the acoustic version. But somewhere in the middle of the tune (coincidentally, when Jon had finished tuning the electric guitar), they kicked it up for the electric version.

This big boost was a nice introduction for Missy and Mitchell's return to the stage for a couple of tunes. Mitchell took the piano, Missy added backing vocals, and even Jon stepped up to the mic for the next two Crowded House standards. I thought Missy's vocals were especially gorgeous on "Fall at Your Feet," and I couldn't help but notice that Jon contributed very subtle low harmonies, a nice contrast to Neil and Missy.

At that point, Chris left the stage (to be replaced by Jon), but not before Neil and everyone in the room showed their appreciation for Chris's great rhythm work. Jon had set the bar earlier when Chris joined them, so it was only natural that we subjected him to the "Wipeout" test as well--he passed. Missy also took a short break while the quartet hit "Pineapple Head," but she returned for "Driving Me Mad" and her own suggestion, "Better Be Home Soon." Mitchell's piano solo on the latter was especially gorgeous, and it made me recall my mixed emotions about "Better Be Home Soon" when it was first released. Though I loved the song, it tested my sensibilities and self-image because it sounded almost--God forbid--country. If only all identity issues were so easily resolved!

The musical chairs proceeded apace, with Mitchell and Missy leaving the stage, Jon taking the electric guitar, and Neil moving to the drum kit. Neil said something about how Largo is the only place where he lasts on drums for a whole song, but despite his harsh assessment of his own skills, he seems to insist on hitting the skins whenever he's at Largo. He too had to undergo the "Wipeout" exam, and I'm afraid to say he was well below the other two drummers, though you can't really begrudge him the effort. He passed muster, however, so we let him advance to the song he intended to play: "One Step Ahead."

Both songs in the encore came from audience requests, and for the final tune, Neil asked all the night's artists to feel free to join him onstage. Only Jon returned to play a shaker during "Throw Your Arms Around Me."

Overall, it was the same Neil I've been listening to for the last (gulp) 20-plus years: charming, generous, laid-back, and playful. Of course, his cool friends don't hurt the case either. Heh. I haven't formed an opinion of the new songs yet; one (maybe "People Are Like Suns") sounded like less of a pop song than you'd associate with Neil, though I know a few of them included those bridges I love so much. This, the third time I've seen Neil at Largo, was as special as ever. I'm just glad he's back.

--Private Universe
--Pour le Monde
--People Are Like Suns
--title unknown
--Only Talking Sense
--Silent House [with Jon Brion]
--Nobody Wants To [with Jon Brion]
--Heaven That I'm Making [with Jon Brion and Sebastian Steinberg]
--Wipeout [with Jon Brion, Sebastian Steinberg, and Chris from the audience]
--something by the Ventures [with Jon, Sebastian, and Chris]
--Distant Sun [with Jon, Sebastian, and Chris]
--Sinner [with Jon, Sebastian, and Chris]
--Anytime [with Jon, Sebastian, and Chris]
--The In-Crowd [with Jon, Sebastian, and Chris]
--All God's Children (slow version) [with Jon, Sebastian, and Chris]
--All God's Children (rock version) [with Jon, Sebastian, and Chris]
--Four Seasons in One Day [with Jon, Sebastian, Mitchell, Missy, and Chris]
--Fall at Your Feet [with Jon, Sebastian, Mitchell, Missy, and Chris]
--Wipeout [with Jon, Sebastian, and Mitchell]
--Pineapple Head [with Jon, Sebastian, and Mitchell]
--Driving Me Mad [with Jon, Sebastian, Mitchell, and Missy]
--Better Be Home Soon [with Jon, Sebastian, Mitchell, and Missy]
--Wipeout [Neil version] [with Jon and Sebastian]
--One Step Ahead [with Jon and Sebastian]

--Message to My Girl
--Throw Your Arms Around Me [with Jon]

More Neil Finn at Largo
» i can teach you, but i have to charge (February 20, 2004)
» i've got it bad (August 14, 2009)
» above you and beyond me too (August 16-18, 2009)


I can't imagine that there's any appropriate way to rationalize tragedy and our reaction to it, but remembering former colleague, fine friend, and all-around great guy James Kim amid an intimate Neil Finn show felt right to me, even if nothing else from the news reports clicked. This wonderful man will be sorely missed and dearly remembered.

See also:
» i can teach you but i have to charge

Thursday, December 07, 2006

it's not going to stop

Regular readers almost got a reprieve. I'd vaguely planned to catch a Cat Power show over Thanksgiving weekend, despite my earlier claims of having hit the Chan Marshall wall. Alas, it didn't happen (I blame the tryptophan), so you're stuck with the usual objects of my obsession.

While we're on the subject, a warning: Barring extenuating circumstances, it's gonna be nearly all Largo, all the time until the end of 2006, including the following Largo-away-from-Largo scenario. You're on notice.

Aimee Mann's 1st Annual Christmas Show, Bimbo's 365 Club, December 4 and 5, 2006Aimee Mann's 1st Annual Christmas Show, Bimbo's 365 Club, December 4 and 5, 2006: I've squandered a lot of opportunities to see Aimee Mann, perhaps most foolishly during her (arguably) best years, following the success of Magnolia and her masterpiece Bachelor No. 2. It took that long for me to realize how much I love her. But I got a lucky break when I caught the Acoustic Vaudeville tour, featuring Aimee, Michael Penn, and Patton Oswalt at Bimbo's in 2000. I'm pretty sure nostalgia originally moved me to buy tickets to that show, but ultimately, the gig is less a testament to a longing for the past than a peek at my future life as a Largo nerd.

Only time will tell if the gigs' "1st annual" appellation will hold up, but at least the "Christmas" billing was well represented onstage. In addition to the usual array of instruments, more symbols of the season dotted the setup: a pair of reindeer, a Christmas tree, several stockings, strings of lights. Despite these details and the addition of some of Largo's favorite names, I don't think we really knew what to expect from the show.

Grant-Lee Phillips, Paul F. Tompkins, and Aimee Mann at at Aimee Mann's 1st Annual Christmas Show, Bimbo's 365 Club, December 4 and 5, 2006Even after Aimee and the band had worked their way through a couple of songs, their intentions weren't clear until Paul F. Tompkins joined them onstage. As Aimee and Paul chatted back and forth (with Aimee getting in as many zingers as Paul), they revealed that they were going for a Bob Hope/Andy Williams/Donnie & Marie vibe. Aimee and Paul also proved that their friendship is not just an affectation for the tour. They bantered effortlessly and giddily, though it also felt like they were sharing a big private joke that we couldn't guess at.

In the spirit of those '70s holiday specials, Aimee eventually duetted with each of her big-name guests: Paul, Grant-Lee Phillips, and John C. Reilly. Paul, especially, sounded better than expected. Each also got his time in the spotlight: Paul with his MC responsibilities, Grant as his usual troubador self, and John turning in spoken word duties.

I've never caught Paul's standup, so I'm not familiar with his style apart from what I've seen on VH1's Best Week Ever. I think I like his banter more than his routine, but I loved what he added to the mix. As I've stated again and again, Grant-Lee is one of my longtime favorites, and his voice is always a beautiful thing. I was just happy to hear him with an electric backing band for the first time in a while! I adored hearing Aimee on backing vocals for "Truly Truly," and you had to smile at his duet with Paul on "Little Drummer Boy" (with a heavy tip of the hat to Bing Crosby and David Bowie). John C. Reilly's singing chops are well known, but watching him act out some of the lines from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, I realized that may be the closest I ever get to seeing him in a play.

Morgan Murphy as the Hanukkah Fairy at Aimee Mann's 1st Annual Christmas Show, Bimbo's 365 Club, December 4 and 5, 2006Rounding out the cast were cameos by Scott Miller (the Loud Family); on the first night, he treated us to an old hymn and a Peanuts classic, but when he did his own songs the second night (complete with an Aimee duet), I understood the connection Aimee must feel with his detailed and maudlin songcraft. Last but not least was Morgan Murphy playing the Hanukkah Fairy--in a white body suit and a pink tutu. Morgan was pretty funny when I saw her with Aimee at Largo back in April, but at Bimbo's, she stole the show. Her mention of the Trader Joe's on Masonic alone was worth the cost of admission.

What about the hostess? In addition to her razor-sharp wit, Aimee treated us to a set heavy on selections from her new Christmas album and a handful of her own songs, including the always popular Magnolia-era hits. The last few times I've seen Aimee, she's turned on her inner Joni Mitchell, and she did so again both nights. It worked nicely on "Red Vines," but "Deathly" didn't fare so well. Though I liked what she did with the vocals, I wasn't a fan of the overall arrangement. One of my favorite aspects of the song is the build toward the bridge, and this new version sort of erased that wonderful, suspenseful effect. That might be my only complaint, especially since she gave us what she claimed was her first-ever performance of "Way Back When."

Morgan Murphy as the Hanukkah Fairy and John C. Reilly as Santa Claus at Aimee Mann's 1st Annual Christmas Show, Bimbo's 365 Club, December 4 and 5, 2006The ensemble closed out the show in the only way that made sense: with a big singalong visited by both Santa Claus (John C. Reilly) and the Hanukkah Fairy. I was gonna let you guess which one brought the confetti, but I couldn't resist posting the picture.

It's an odd affliction, the need to see an artist repeatedly for fear of missing some nuance that could cast a brand-new light on the performer in question. I know that most bands' performances don't change much, but I'm willing to stick it out for those nuggets of originality, especially if they're sandwiched between songs I love so much.

At this point, you don't have to ask me of all people if it was worth going to both nights. The two shows shared more elements than differences, but we got a slightly different setlist over the two nights, and the participants even mixed up their stage banter. If I had to choose, I guess I liked the first night better, if only because the group seemed less sure of themselves and, thus, more open to goofiness. In fact, Aimee later mentioned that the show felt more like a dress rehearsal than a real gig, but I think this loose take really energized the festivities. The second night, the crowd felt more responsive, and I enjoyed seeing what the performers did to keep the material fresh for themselves.

See also:
» i'm the stuff of happy endings

Saturday, November 25, 2006

wherever you go, wherever you land

My formerly rigid rules of rock tourism now resemble vague suggestions, but a few things remain constant: As long as you have good friends and good music, you're set. But when you also chance upon the combination of a local hostess/tour guide, a relatively balmy Midwestern late fall day, a flexible work situation, a general admission venue, and frequent-flyer miles, then there's no turning back.

Jeff Tweedy, Barrymore Theater, November 22, 2006Wilco, Barrymore Theater, November 22, 2006: As a music fan, it's rare that you get a chance to go back in time and see a band in their old stomping grounds. The cycle of rock music usually requires most bands to move on, toward the next peak. If you even get the chance to look back, the band is either a total washout at that point, or the show itself is so exclusive that no mere mortal outside of the music industry can hope to snag a ticket.

Wilco, bless 'em, are not one of those bands. Though they're more likely to play theaters and bigger venues these days, they sometimes venture back to the clubs that nurtured them. In fact, if you crank up the Wilco Time Machine, you'll find that it's been six years and about a week since the band last played the Barrymore Theater in Madison, Wisconsin. That night, they also played a ditty called "The Colon Song." Sweet dreams are made of this...

Nels Cline, Barrymore Theater, November 22, 2006In lieu of that off-the-cuff composition, we got six new songs, at least two of which ("Shake It Off" and "What Light") I hadn't heard before in person, and another I hadn't heard with the full band treatment ("Is That the Thanks I Get"). Actually, we had heard part of "Shake It Off" at soundcheck in Latrobe, and it struck me as a very much like a Cat Power ditty, circa Moon Pix. Hearing the whole tune, though, I take back some of that; "Shake It Off" definitely develops into something else altogether, though I'm not sure how to characterize it just yet.

Meanwhile, "What Light" was dedicated to John Stirrat's newborn baby girl--only to be followed by Jeff forgetting the opening lines and the band starting all over again. "Let's Not Get Carried Away" and "Impossible Germany" were both mesmerizing in their own very distinctive ways, while "Walken" and "Is That the Thanks I Get" showed off the rootsy, catchy style that Wilco has long been known for.

The band members themselves were loose and low key. Jeff admitted that there might've been some mistakes but blamed them on the fact that the group had been up all night, boiling water and tearing up towels to prepare for John's baby. Even the mighty Nels Cline made a rare misstep during "Muzzle of Bees," though he comically tried to play it off when Jeff's eyes went to him ("Half of it's you/Half of it's me"). I think he redeemed himself when he named the new song, "The Kingpin." Other fun asides: Jeff perching on the monitor for "Hummingbird," Nels commending Paul for his "The Kingpin" howl and Dick for his Plimsouls (LA represent!) t-shirt, a teeth-baring drummer, a full-band salute to the openers, and several bouquets making their way to the stage.

Detholz, Barrymore Theater, November 22, 2006After last month's report, I realized I hadn't mentioned the opening bands, and quite frankly, I'm too lazy to amend my posts now, but I have to give some love to Detholz. A lot of people I trust and respect have said great things about these guys, and they were all right on the money.

I can't say much about Detholz except that you gotta add them to the "you have to see it to believe it" list of musicians. Their energy is immeasurable, and their songs were a hoot and a holler too. Ordinarily, I shy away from bands who wear their '80s influences so prominently, but Detholz really made the sound their own. If they don't watch out, Beck is totally going to steal their keyboardist one of these days. God, I hope they come to California some time.

See also:
» don't want to hurt no pandas

Monday, November 20, 2006

i remember finding out about you

Funny place, that Largo. After you've finally made peace with the idea that Jon Brion is doing only one set these days and that you'll be out the door a little after midnight, he turns in (basically) two sets rolled into a single session. Go figure.

Jon Brion, Largo, November 17, 2006: After last month's supermoody show, I felt some trepidation, not least because we had three newbies (Trish, John, and Kyle), one near-newbie (Maudie), and one birthday girl (Brianne) among our eight seats. Though I filed all caveats ahead of time, they didn't cancel on us, and slight relief came when Mike at the door announced that the cover charge for the night would be $15, to accommodate the "special guests." I try not to overanticipate any particular show or potential guests, but Jon seems more likely to perk up when his friends join him onstage, which, in turn, translates to a peppier show.

We couldn't help guessing at who the mystery performers might be, and the question was partly answered when we took our seats and noticed a pedal steel guitar among the night's instruments. I figured Greg Leisz would be joining in, which thrilled those of us who had seen last month's cavalcade of stars. John, however, gave me a funny look and informed me that no one else considered that a star sighting. Bwahahahaha.

Soon enough, Jill Sobule took the stage for a short, charming set. Coincidentally, Jill opened the only other time Maudie has seen Jon Brion--we're guessing they must share a psychic bond. No, we didn't get "Hot in Herre" this time, but Jill pointedly dropped Paris Hilton's name during the opening song, "Bitter," about people getting by (or not) on their actual talents. Tonight, Greg Leisz added his distinctive touch to her basic tunes and sounded as if he had lived with them for the last 10 years, though the two had met only 10 minutes before.

Flanagan came back to the stage to introduce Jon, who apparently had just returned from England. Cutting a dapper figure in a pinstriped suit with western-style front pockets, Jon went to one of his hollow-body guitars for, I'm guessing, an instrumental medley. Evonne and I exchanged a couple of ideas for what we might've heard. My guess: "I'm in the Mood for Love," but I can't guarantee that he actually played it.

I think the pedal demo started as Jon trying to determine which guitar he wanted next, but instead, we got a short explanation of how certain switches add or subtract from the guitar's tones. He touched the keyboards for a bit, just to make sure they were working, but his real intentions resided elsewhere. Instead, he built up "Girl I Knew" with slightly different phrasing than I'm used to. It was a bit more languid--resigned, perhaps?--and not as crisp and syncopated as usual.

I still hadn't quite gauged the feel of the night, as Jon hadn't spoken much, and the next two songs on the piano didn't help either, as they were two of his more contemplative tunes. OK, I admit it, "The Way It Went" is an outright downer--there, I said it.

But accompanying Jon's relative reticence was the audience's silence. Most of the time, the audience doesn't wait for Jon to ask for requests before they yell out titles, but there was something about tonight's tone that seemed to keep us from imposing on Jon's mental state. We mostly stayed quiet, and Jon proceeded apace with what turned out to be mostly his own compositions.

Back on electric guitar, Jon turned in "That's Just What You Are," again with a little tweak in phrasing. He tried out a bunch of his harmonicas and found them unsatisfactory until Samy brought out a specific model. With the proper equipment, he launched into "Knock Yourself Out" on the celeste--just about the most charming version of the tune I've ever heard.

The rock returned with "I'm Further On," a song whose recent absence I'd been thinking of earlier that day. Happily, the drought was over, though it wasn't without its hurdles. While Jon switched instruments at the beginning of the song, his guitars became a bit entangled, and he ended up with one that didn't have a strap. We saw him contorting himself in various ways to get a handle on the guitar, including kneeling on the floor to support it and holding it up high on his body, à la George Harrison. The song itself seemed to bring out something in Jon, moving him to jump around the stage and grin happily through passages. He turned in a maniacal solo that required many of the pedals he had demonstrated to us earlier and brought it to a close on a big rock ending.

This song may have wrought unexpected side effects as well. I couldn't help but notice that after taking his seat at the piano, Jon was rubbing his right arm. The tendinitis question remains, of course, and it was the first time since July that I've seen him show any discomfort onstage. I, for one, don't assume that Jon's all better, but I can always use a reminder that this whole thing can go up in smoke yet again.

Nonetheless, Jon followed up with "Strings That Tie to You," embellished with ethereal piano loops. He remained on the piano for a jazzy instrumental that I recognized as a deconstructed "Someone to Watch Over Me." Expanding on this lead, he built it up to its anthemic glory, still bringing to (my) mind more Bowie than Gershwin.

Though we didn't realize it at the time, this effectively ended the first half of the show, as Jon brought on his old friends Benmont Tench and Greg Leisz--a.k.a. 3/7 of the astounding supergroup that had recently graced Largo. Personally, these three were my favorite members, though I wouldn't have minded David Rawlings showing up and chipping in.

Whatever verbal communication goes on between these guys has to be pretty subtle, as even in the front row of tables, we can barely hear any words exchanged. Still, they seem to follow, lead, prod, support, encourage, and inspire each other with little more than a glance, a nod, or a grin. Early in their set, Jon joked about doing all Dylan covers; as it turned out, a preferred artist emerged, but it wasn't Bob.

I remember thinking that "Isn't It a Pity" sounded fairly traditional, but "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" had a palpable poignancy that had me holding my breath. Something about the spare instrumentation, Jon's purposeful stance and gaze, the musicians' soloing turns, and the beauty of the song itself added up to a powerful, moving performance.

During the slight lull that followed, I took advantage of the silence to request "I'll Be Back" since I knew that it could be done with an acoustic guitar and a lap steel. Besides, I wanted to hear what Benmont could do with it; he didn't disappoint.

Jon professed his love of "I Don't Hurt Anymore," and my Beatlemania hardly minded "Day After Day." As usual, Jon requested "egregious" slapback for "Why Do You Do This to Yourself," and Scott obliged with "the kind you can't get over the counter." To my delight, Jon added touches of falsetto and cooing passages, and the tune took on a wistful, high lonesome sound. It wasn't what I expected, but it was an awesome twist on a familiar selection.

Just when I thought that we had settled into our groove for the night, Jon threw a curveball in the form of a Pixies song that briefly morphed into "Jessie's Girl," before giving way to "Taxman" and finally an overlay of "Within You, Without You."

The group loosely convened to decide on the last song of the night, though Jon didn't explicitly inform either Benmont or Greg of his decision. Instead, he asked them for eight bars, which made us laugh and Benmont sort of gape. But Jon plowed on, and within three beats, I knew exactly--well, sort of--what was coming next: "Tomorrow Never Knows." True to form, it went on for at least 20 minutes, as the three of them played their fingers off. I loved that Jon re-created the cut-up tape sequences live on guitar, while Greg's lap steel found a home on this most unlikely of Beatles songs.

But somewhere in this musical maelstrom, I noticed familiar chords coming from the piano--Benmont was dropping "Day Tripper" into the mix, and Jon picked up on it as well. Between the two of them, they visited at least a dozen Beatles songs that I recognized and probably twice as many that went right past me.

By the end, "She's So Heavy" had fully taken hold. While Benmont picked out a beautiful passage, Jon set down his guitar and fell to his hands and knees, slapping the pedals off before moving to the drum set for the ending coda.

By then, it was about 1:30, and Jon was still hanging around and chatting with fans as we left the club. But the night wasn't exactly over yet. On our way to the car, we noticed an improbably dressed figure sidling into the Dime, as well as a video camera following her moves from afar. Holy shit, it was Paris Hilton, the recording artist herself. Her driver even backed his SUV into our spot after we left. Is there such a thing as coincidence in Los Angeles? I don't think so!

Jill Sobule setlist
--Bobbie Gentry*
--Now That I Don't Have You*
--Ring Them Bells*

* = with Greg Leisz

Jon Brion setlist
--guitar instrumental
--pedal demo
--Girl I Knew [song build]
--The Way It Went [piano]
--Eternal Sunshine theme [piano]
--That's Just What You Are [electric guitar]
--Knock Yourself Out [celeste + harmonica]
--I'm Further On [song build]
--Strings That Tie to You [piano]
--Someone to Watch Over Me (jazzy instrumental version) [piano]
--Someone to Watch Over Me (rock version) [song build]
--Isn't It a Pity**
--It's All Over Now, Baby Blue**
--I'll Be Back**
--I Don't Hurt Anymore**
--Day After Day**
--Why Do You Do This to Yourself**
--Gigantic/Jesse's Girl/Taxman/Within You, Without You**
--Tomorrow Never Knows/Day Tripper/She Said, She Said/I Want You/Ob La Di, Ob La Da/Dear Prudence/Baby You're a Rich Man/a thousand other Beatles riffs**
--She's So Heavy**

** = with Benmont Tench and Greg Leisz

See also:
» just for one day
» Gillian, David, Sean, Sara, Jon, Greg
» i'll be back again
» can't really spell it out

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Brian Wilson I Love You

Thanks to Josh from the Lylas for recommending this show to me. I definitely don't get out enough in this city these days, and I'm always glad when I can support a deserving band.

Prabir and the Substitutes, Rockit Room, November 16, 2006: When a band opens with an original composition called "Brian Wilson I Love You," you gotta have an idea of what their influences might be. Prabir and his band certainly knew how to work the multipart harmonies, but they showed off a whole range of other styles as well, such as garage pop and even an a cappella treatment. Some of their songs were more smart-alecky ("Everybody Has Someone to Fuck But Me"), but they showed real emotion and poignancy too. They promised a free MP3 of a song called "Slow" to anyone who joined their mailing list, and to hear it, you'd have no problem guessing why they wanted to pimp out the tune. It was a cool, catchy rocker, the very definition of power pop. If there were any justice in the world, it'd be a huge hit.

Prabir and the Substitutes, Rockit Room, November 16, 2006The thing that really struck me about them, besides their great voices and well-constructed tunes, was how tight they were. When I see these up-and-coming bands, I sort of expect them to be loose and mellow. But Prabir and the Substitutes had to hit some pretty unforgiving marks--and at least to these ears, they met them all.

Oddly, Prabir and the Substitutes went on last, though I thought they were second on the bill. The supposed headliner was actually the middle band, the Parties. As a local group, the Parties got a huge reception--apparently from the singer's coworkers in attendance that night. They were fun, actually, betraying a huge nod to the British Invasion. But this meant that Prabir and friends faced a diminishing crowd by the time they hit the stage. Unfortunately, I was unable to scare up any pals (from my ever shrinking circle of candidates) who wanted to come along, so by the bitter end, the audience seemed to mostly comprise people in the bands who played earlier that night. The guys still played their hearts out, however, and reminded me of how important it is to catch these young bands when possible.

See also:
» Prabir and the Substitutes official page
» Prabir and the Substitutes on MySpace

Sunday, November 05, 2006

there's nothing I wouldn't do, including doing nothing

I'm deathly afraid (well, as much as a woman who proudly maintains a pristine, 20-year-old Star Hits collection can be) of falling prey to '80s nostalgia, but every now and then, I can't resist catching a band from my teenage years. I mean, you'll never find me at a Cure or Depeche Mode gig, and I even gave up on Duran Duran years ago, but when Scritti Politti--on their first-ever tour of North America, no less--announces a show, I have to be there.

Scritti Politti, Slim's, November 2, 2006: It's probably a good thing that Scritti Politti didn't come around when I was younger, as there would've been no way for me to see them live, and I would've been left stewing for the last 20-odd years. Instead, I watched the videos, pored over Green Gartside's Derrida- and Lacan-inflected interviews, and drooled over the singer from the comfort of my own home. Apparently, "Perfect Way" was a huge hit all over the country, but in my backwater, non-Brit-loving corner of San Jose known as Sylvandale Junior High, I had no idea it had any hold on the populace outside of me and my circle of friends.

I struggle every time I blog about '80s music, though not for lack of words or material. Rather, I wrestle with two decades' worth of recollections, distractions, and chagrin before I approach anything resembling relevance. I also find it difficult to feign impartiality about the era; it was only around the turn of the century that I realized not every song needed huge drum fills and glossy Fairlight samples. Seriously, I just assumed that was the way modern music was supposed to sound. Bwahahahahahahahaha.

Scritti Politti, Perfect Way screenshotStill, I maintain that Scritti Politti's "Perfect Way" is a pristine slice of '80s pop culture. Music writers much more knowledgeable than myself have defended the tune's production values, but I can assure you that the video, directed by the team of Peter Kagan and Paula Greif, marked a major turning point for the decade's promo clips.

You may not know Kagan and Greif by name, but most likely, you're no stranger to their artsy, quick-cut style, which was a huge antidote to the overarching mini movies such as "Thriller," "Like a Virgin," "Let's Dance," and *gulp* "Hungry Like the Wolf" dominating MTV at the time. Their videos alternated between footage that was supersaturated and black-and-white, unfinished and polished, shot in slo mo and real time, and they featured the beauties who would later comprise the first (and greatest) wave of supermodels: Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz, and Veronica Webb, to name a few.

In fact, Paula Greif was one of the creators of the anti-video look on the Smiths' groundbreaking "How Soon Is Now," and that clip's grainy texture and discordant feel would be common elements in the duo's videos. Ironically, the team would go on to direct videos for Steve Winwood ("Higher Love") and Duran Duran ("Notorious," "Skin Trade," and "Meet El President"), among others, but "Perfect Way" hit the airwaves before the big names came calling, and it showed off all their visual trademarks. Unfortunately, nearly every metal video from 1987 on would bastardize this look, but for a brief window of time, it was solely the calling card of style-savvy bands.

Scritti Politti, Slim's, November 2, 2006The point of this detour: such is the power of the "Perfect Way" video that I didn't realize Green Gartside played an instrument! Deep down, I probably knew that he did something other than button his shirt to the top (such a fashion statement of the time), push his preternaturally floppy hair out of his big blue eyes, and make teenage girls sigh. Perhaps.

So the sight of Green playing a guitar (adorned by, appropriately, a big Philosophy sticker) at Slim's was a bit jarring, but it was overshadowed by other revelations. For one, he's now on Nonesuch--home to a certain band I like so much, as well as the label that released a particular movie soundtrack containing one of my favorite songs of all time by my preferred working film composer.

Also, never in a million years could my 14-year-old self have anticipated that the handsome Welshman would become a respected and evangelistic hip-hop acolyte in the '90s. We got a few of the hip-hop collaborations at this show and a Jeru the Damaja cover, with Green apologetically filling in for the absent rappers. I think my favorite song of the night was "Die Alone," a slinky duet with Me'Shell NdegéOcello (not present). Then again, Scritti Politti has always had a funkier bent, and even the band's pop-era singles have displayed a reggae lilt; I had no business being so surprised.

Scritti Politti, Slim's, November 2, 2006Backing Green was a five-piece band with a fairly elaborate setup. The drummer had two different kits: one analog (?), the other electric. I counted no fewer than four Apple laptops onstage. And one player, besides filling in on percussion, keyboards, and bass guitar, seemed to have been primarily entrusted with switching out Green's lyrics sheets. They all looked like they were having fun, though, and Green seemed as relaxed as he could be around them.

They played a mix of old and new, and Green understandably afforded more exposition to the newer songs, such as "Mrs. Hughes," about a former English teacher who told him that he wouldn't amount to anything and her equally dire husband. He seemed fairly pragmatic about the old songs, and of course "The Word Girl" and "Wood Beez" got huge responses from the audience. My mind was seized by an alarming image of a room full of aging '80s dancers flooding Slim's main floor, but the familiar synth opening and that one shimmering guitar riff in "Wood Beez" brought my mind back to the music. As I understand it, the band has sworn off "Perfect Way," but I didn't mind the absence.

For all the reports of Green's stage fright, he seemed to have a firm handle on the situation. He was self-deprecating and charming, and he brought in the other players often. His singing voice is exactly the same in concert as it is on the records, but his speaking voice is, for lack of a better word, normal--and posh. The only small blot was that he wasn't feeling well and skipped four songs on the setlist, though he begged off in a ridiculously sweet manner. A few songs in, he even asked the club management to bring him a banana to eat so that he wouldn't black out (they obliged). At the end, he told us that we were the best audience ever. It might've meant more if he weren't notorious for never touring, but after 20 years of waiting, we're easy that way.

Since I've already been so inelegant and heavy-handed in my gushing references to Green's appearance, I might as well come clean and devote a whole section to it. The floppy, frosted hair has been replaced by a much shorter and more natural crop and a goatee, but he looked at least 10 years younger than his age (51?!?). Following a fervent round of YouTubing/Googling a bunch of old clips and interviews (did you know Miles Davis covered "Perfect Way"?!?), I decided he was far too pretty in the '80s--very generous of me, I know. Now, with his blue hoodie, green DC Shoes t-shirt, and matching Converse, he's the epitome of the hip, attractive older man. Sigh.

And if that isn't a sign I need to stop right now, I don't know what is. Thanks for humoring me. Please join me again when I return to the 21st century.

See also:
» Star Hits: a tribute

Saturday, November 04, 2006


The denouement of a whirlwind weekend! Thanks to my friends for coming along for the ride (and the urban hike).

Nels Cline Group, Herbst Theatre, October 29, 2006: Back in April, Nels told us about his busy schedule, including a potentially action-packed Halloween weekend that would've comprised a Wilco show in Las Vegas and his own show as part of the San Francisco Jazz Fest. Of course, this rock tourist immediately started plotting a jetset adventure that would cover Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco, and amazingly, a few friends jumped on the bandwagon immediately. In the end, we did only two of the aforementioned cities, but that was plenty.

So we went to see our third Nels Cline project in a little more than a week, and once again, the man surprised and amazed. Wilco is sort of the odd man out in this grouping, but this show was different from the LACMA show only a couple of days before. For one thing, Nels was the clear leader tonight, though that's not to say he's an attention hog of any sort. Rather, his most visible contributions, aside from his guitarwork, were calling a few musical cues, such as bringing the band back from an improvisational bender on "Not Sa No Sa."

Nels is a consummate team player, and every player got their solo opportunities. I especially enjoyed the horns, but the electric accordion added an unexpected touch. Of course, the sextet was anchored by Scott Amendola, Devin Hoff, and Nels himself--a.k.a. the Nels Cline Singers. Their extensive experience playing together and listening to each other came through emphatically on the suite "No Doubt / 11/8 / Dance with Death." The group ended with "Pumpkin," a short piece that sounded almost rock 'n' roll in performance that night.

We stuck around for the headliner, and boy, am I glad we did, if only so that I could discover how radical a spin Nels had put on the original compositions. Andrew Hill himself looked very frail, and his voice could barely be heard, even without the applause. Perhaps as a trade-off, he put a lot of faith in his group members, especially Charles Tolliver on trumpet, but he also called a few shots. For example, he urged the horn players to return for one song and guided the bass player through another selection. I don't know enough about jazz to explain what I heard, except to say that it was not the easy listening variety commonly heard in storefronts or even the brand of fusion practiced by Nels.

I'd like to thank Heidi and Paul for not flinching at the idea of spending less than 24 hours in San Francisco for a jazz show. I hope it was worth it!

See also:
» don't want to hurt no pandas
» just for one day

Friday, November 03, 2006

just for one day

It's always kinda funny when rock tourism trips piggyback each other. Less than a week after visiting the Appalachians and the Eastern Continental Divide, we were on the other edge of the country. There are worse fates in life.

Jeff Gauthier Goatette, LACMA, October 27, 2006: How convenient that Nels Cline was playing a free show on the Miracle Mile on the same night we had a reservation for Largo! We slipped into our seats not long before the music started. We had warned the poor man of our attendance the week before, but he still seemed surprised to see us in the audience.

Nels Cline and Jeff Gauthier, LACMA, October 27, 2006I believe the Goatette comprised the same people who played at Yoshi's back in May, and they hit at least one of the same songs: "Solflicka," which elicited a similar response from Heidi as it had from me when I first heard it. Sadly, Alex Cline didn't play the gong this time, but we got a couple other wonderful Jeff Gauthier compositions--namely, "Clea's Bounce" and "Enfant."

We took off for Largo during the first intermission but only after delivering the Andrew Hill football shirt I had long intended to get to Nels. He claimed it wasn't goofy, and I thank him for accepting it so gracefully.

Jon Brion, Largo, October 27, 2006: Before we left the LACMA, Nels mentioned that he planned to drop in at Largo that night to say hello to his old friend, Jon Brion. I don't know if our constant reminders had anything to do with it, but it was great news to our ears. And in fact, we saw Nels's familiar profile in the back of the room before the show began. He and Jon seemed to share a short chat and a heartfelt hug before Jon took the stage--charm all around.

But first off, Greg Proops opened the show. His monologue covered some familiar territory, but he managed to make them sound new. He seemed to think that he was bombing and turned it back on us, but he seemed to be doing OK from where I was sitting. His best line of the night came from a riff on the McCartney-Mills divorce, but that's the last thing I can say about him. Just see him yourself.

Back to the show: There's been no official proclamation (as if there ever is one), but it seems that Jon's tendinitis is currently at bay. Of course, a couple of weeks ago, he played a big part in what may be my favorite Largo show ever, and he even entertained at Largo the Friday before.

In retrospect, the clues were out there right from the beginning. When the crowd responded fairly positively to his top-of-the-show greeting, he commented that at least some people had enjoyed a good week; his tone clearly indicated that he didn't align himself with the cheery folk.

For his opening noodle (thanks Heidi!), he embarked on his trademark long-form piano improv, but this week's exercise sounded more ominous than usual. At the end, he said something about it being a "pro-suicide anthem," though he also joked that those chords would later become "Stairway to Heaven." Much later, Heidi noted that she suspected it was an opaque spin on "You Don't Know What Love Is," and I wouldn't argue with her.

I think it was at this point that Jon mentioned he had missed soundcheck but not by his own design. Rather, he had been stuck in a hotel elevator. Though he was only a couple of floors off the ground, the hotel had given him free drink tickets to placate any potentially litigious urges.

For the next selection, he mentioned a conversation he had with a friend about drug-influenced music from the '70s and said that he didn't want to do too many covers that night. Neither point stopped him from what was a debut for me: a song build of "Boys Keep Swinging." Jon read most of the lyrics from the songbook I-Ching, but he took care of all the instrumentation himself.

He stayed on electric guitar for two of his own songs: "Why Do You Do This to Yourself" and--more surprising--"Trouble." I hadn't heard the latter in a while, and it was a treat.

Jon sat down at the piano for "If I Only Had a Brain." He plays it as incidental music quite often, but he actually sang a couple of verses this time, and with a small grin on his face, at that. The song morphed into "Same Mistakes," still on the piano.

Around this time, the requests started flooding in from the audience, but the downbeat titles weren't working for him, and he said he needed to rock out. Thus, we got "Happy with You," which definitely lifted the mood.

The effect was temporary, as the next song build turned into an extended instrumental that resembled a coalescing storm. Throughout the night, Jon had technical difficulties, and the mechanical shortcomings reared their head prominently on this composition. We suspect that he was trying to take it one way but that it didn't work out. Instead, we got "Walking Through Walls" with a murky backing track instead of the roaring syncopation and the clean pacing that usually accompanies the song.

It was back to basics for "Knock Yourself Out," followed by a long song build that took forever for me to figure out. When I finally put the pieces together, I wanted to jump out of my chair in anticipation of what is perhaps the greatest guitar solo ever. It was "Heroes," which I haven't heard at Largo for far too long. Jon's singular twists on the song included a gorgeous little piano trill and a country-and-western-style guitar bridge sprinkled gingerly throughout.

Jon asked Nels to come up to the stage, but alas, we'll never know what they might've concocted, as Nels had left by then. Instead, Jon chose to close out the set with a singalong. He asked us for requests and took a long time considering our suggestions. Upon hearing "Dancing Queen" bandied about, he opined that most of us didn't really know that or many other popular songs and dared us to come up with the second verse. Oddly, he didn't give us a chance to prove or disprove his theory; after he agreed to "Daydream Believer," he did all of the verses himself anyway. I'm happy to say we didn't let him down on the choruses.

The true closer was the Cheers theme, another first for me. And it was very appropriate, as everyone really does know Jon's name at Largo. It'd be foolish to think Jon escaped the cloud hanging over his head during the course of his show, but bless him for putting on a show anyway.

The setlist:
--Greg Proops opener

--Casio + piano + celeste noodling
--Boys Keep Swinging [song build]
--Why Do You Do This to Yourself [electric guitar]
--Trouble [electric guitar]
--If I Only Had a Brain [piano]
--Same Mistakes [piano]
--Happy with You [song build]
--stormy instrumental
--Walking through Walls [song build]
--Knock Yourself Out [acoustic guitar + harmonica]
--Heroes [song build]
--Daydream Believer [piano]
--Cheers theme [piano]

See also:
» mask
» Gillian, David, Sean, Sara, Jon, Greg
» don't want to hurt no pandas

Thursday, November 02, 2006

don't want to hurt no pandas

Believe it or not, it's been six months since I've seen Wilco proper, and even Wilco-related shows have been scarce in the past few months. But the band is nothing if not industrious, and the fall typically brings a round of touring. It's been a while since I've had the chance to catch three general admission gigs in a row; that Heidi's home could serve as a base of operation sweetened the deal considerably, and of course, the company is always the clincher. Unfortunately, the trip also coincided with a crazy work week for me, but these hard-core credentials don't come free.

Wilco, Mountainlair, October 18, 2006: Though Heidi was the only one of us who'd been to West Virginia before, seeing the university brought on a distinct sense of déjà vu. It reminded us a lot of UC San Diego and the Price Ballroom. That is, it was a flat conference room with questionable acoustics, though the Mountainlair was a little smaller. I'm sure the people in the back had a helluva time seeing the stage, but we had a great view from our spots along the barrier.

This show had a huge cloud hanging over it: an incident between Jeff and a drunk, overzealous fan from a couple of days before. The story had become an uproar, fueled by sensationalistic and erroneous reports of Jeff inflicting violence on the guy. We weren't sure how Jeff would handle the inevitable heckling, and we were a little nervous about finding out.

Wilco, Mountainlair, October 18, 2006Of course, it went fine. The crowd wasn't bad at all, except for the dumb guy next to Paul and Heidi who repeatedly yelled at Jeff to kiss someone. And Jeff actually defused the situation himself; he didn't speak early on, but when he did, he assured everyone he wouldn't punch them. He obviously felt relaxed enough with the audience that he emerged for the encore in the university jersey, and they enjoyed his presence enough that they joined in the "Morganton" call-and-response for "Kingpin."

At one point, I had an idea of how many Wilco shows I've attended, but right now, I've completely lost track of that number. Obviously, it's a lot. And yes, even I ask myself why I continue to do this. Here's the short answer, which I didn't recognize until the Morgantown show: I love watching the band's chemistry onstage, especially Nels Cline's interactions with his bandmates.

I've made no bones about my Nels fandom, but in addition to being an amazing guitarist, he never looks bored onstage. Since I last saw them, Nels and Mikael Jourgenson have developed a charming little rapport on their half of the stage. Nels and Glenn even embarked on a coheadlining tour, and you could see their continually developing camaraderie as they play together.

But the best part of the show was hearing the new songs. Not long ago, I would've tracked down the new tunes as they hit the Internet, but I've taken a somewhat laissez-faire (for me, anyway) attitude with Wilco recently. I caught a couple new tunes on the Lollapalooza Webcast, but that's it. Technically, the only true debut for me was the closer, "Let's Not Get Carried Away," which turned out to be an AC/DC-style barn burner that features a huge drum solo. It's about the last thing I expected from the band, and I loved it.

There's been a lot of talk about the two-guitar interaction on the new Wilco songs, but--as surprising as this sounds coming from me--I have to acknowledge that all three guitarists in the band contribute to the new tunes, especially "Impossible Germany" and "Walken." I found myself looking to the other side of the stage a number of times and likiing it, which almost never happens.

Wilco, 9:30 Club, October 19, 2006: This gig marked the fifth Wilco show I've seen at the 9:30 Club, and they've all been winners. Ah, I remember when I could show up at 4:30 and not see another soul for a good hour--not so much these days, but we expected as such.

Wilco, 9:30 Club, October 19, 2006Before the gig, we reminisced a bit about all the great times we've enjoyed at the 9:30 in the past (except for Paul, who had never seen Wilco there before). Of course I met Heidi there a little more than four years ago, and the fact that we got to hear the band's first live rendition of "Poor Places," as well as the encore of "We've Been Had," cemented the club's reputation as one of my favorite places in the world.

Back in 2004, around the time A Ghost Is Born came out, a group of us embarked on an extended road trip that included the 9:30. I distinctly recall a series of heads turned to face Nels Cline as he worked his magic on "Radio Cure," and this memory came right back at me when the band opened the set with the same song.

The nonpunch still colored the show, but Jeff made quick work of it, and overall, he seemed a little more relaxed. The adoring crowd probably helped, and he took advantage of the love flowing in the room by delivering a long monologue about all the great stuff in Washington, D.C., and how it coexists with the scum in the district. Appropriately, we got "Political Science" that night.

Wilco is way too big for the 9:30 Club these days, but it's still one of the best places to see them, and this turned out to be my favorite show of the trip. It certainly taught me to not to miss another Wilco show at the 9:30 Club again.

Wilco, Casey Center, October 20, 2006: Rock tourism is not for the faint of heart, and certain rules must be heeded. For example, shows at small religious schools in Pennsylvania tend to be winners. And that's how we found ourselves (turnpike ticket notwithstanding) in the gym at Saint Vincent College, the first Benedictine monastery in the United States.

Wilco, Casey Center, October 20, 2006During soundcheck, we heard a new song that reminded me of the languid, stretchy pacing of Cat Power's "American Flag," though otherwise, they bear no resemblance to each other in any way. I'm not a big stickler for song selection, but the setlist itself was a bit anticlimatic, especially for a tour closer. We got only one encore; according to Paul, the crowds streaming out of the hall probably had something to do with the abbreviated set, so the rest of us missed "Say You Miss Me" and others.

But on the fun side, we heard Jeff pander to the local crowd for the third night in a rown by trying to cram in "Saint Vincent" instead of "Pekin" in "Kingpin." During "Hummingbird," Jeff also tried to give Nels a massage a là Buster Bluth. Instead, he mostly succeeded in making an already giddy-seeming Nels laugh out loud. And I'm already a total convert to "Let's Not Get Carried Away," if only for the opportunity to watch the rest of the band beaming at Glenn.

Afterwards, we chatted for a bit, even as the temperatures dropped far lower than comfortable, but the hugs made up for our shivering. We learned that we had breached the secret brotherhood of dry, bared teeth, that this coast might have some very cool shows to look forward to come February 2007, and that a certain very pretty nose nearly didn't survive what should've been a rudimentary instrumental passage.

I want to do it all over again.

See also:
» from the books you don't read anyway
» it's still beyond me

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

a strong heart will prevail

Whoa, I didn't intend to take so long with this concert report, but the last entry deserved some more time on the marquee anyway.

Badly Drawn Boy, Great American Music Hall, October 16, 2006: Quite simply, I love Badly Drawn Boy. His show at Bimbo's in 2000 on his first tour of the United States remains one of my favorites of all time, and I go back to The Hour of Bewilderbeast repeatedly. Between then and now, there've been a few other funny stories regarding Damon, and of course, the collaboration with Jon Brion helped cement both of their reputations in my book. Finally, I get to blog about him.

Badly Drawn Boy, Great American Music Hall, October 16, 2006Before the show began, I overheard a few people around me discussing the last Badly Drawn Boy gig in San Francisco, the details of which I'd totally forgotten. That time, he had broken up the show into two sections: one half for the new stuff, one half for the hits, with a break in between. As I recall, he had a couple of string players, and his manager handed out "pretty girl passes" to (surprise surprise) pretty girls in the audience. These are among the reasons I love him, though friends haven't been found him as charming.

Well, we certainly saw his pricklier side at the show. Near the beginning, he told the chatterers to shut up, and as the show progressed, he took out some of his frustrations on a harmonica holder that didn't quite fit. His mood reached its nadir when he called a short intermission, lamenting his latest single's low debut on the U.K. charts. Over here, we're inured from those concerns, though I can see how his former (?) cockiness might take a beating from the diminishing commercial returns. Sure, he's not Coldplay, but like many of his U.S. fans, I'm just glad that he's back in the States doing what he does best. I should say, though, that his occasional surliness isn't a surprise, but as it was happening, I wasn't sure we'd see the playfulness that endeared him to me in the first place.

But that's not to say it was all gloom and doom. I loved the addition of a small xylophone to the band's repertoire. Since I was standing nearly exactly in front of it, I could hear it quite well, but I'm not sure it came through to the rest of the crowd. And once Damon's mood lifted, we saw some of the goofiness return. After coming back to the stage, Damon and the guitarist did a gorgeous, spare song that he claimed had never been done onstage (I can't remember it now). Later, Damon took the mic off the stand to serenade and greet the audience. I'm glad to report that Julie's was the first hand he kissed!

As much as I love him, I have to admit he seemed to run hot and cold at this show. Will I be back? Of course I will, but for maybe the first time, I can admit that maybe my naysaying friends have a point.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Gillian, David, Sean, Sara, Jon, Greg

And Benmont! And David Garza too!

Gillian, David, Sean, Sara, Jon, Greg, Largo, October 13, 2006: Don't ask me how it happened that the Anglophile is reporting on her second bluegrass-associated event in the last week. But twang or no twang, I'm no fool, and after last week's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, there was no way I could pass up this dream bill.

I've never seen a Gillian Welch/David Rawlings show or the Watkins Family Hour before, so I can't compare tonight's gig to anything they've previously done. But I've attended a couple of Jon Brion shows. The obvious analogy would be Jon's second set, where high-wattage friends sometimes show up to amaze and delight. Those later sets are a good starting point, but tonight, we saw a one-of-a-kind gathering.

True to the billing, Gillian, David, Sara, and Sean were the headliners, trading off vocal duties. Jon was more of a background player, though he stepped up to the mic as the mood struck him. At many points during the night, he stood behind the main quartet, understatedly strumming his guitar and smiling beatifically at the musical goodness. Greg Leisz, for reasons unstated, didn't show up until about 1/3 of the way through the show. But with the unbilled Benmont Tench (maybe his name didn't fit on the Largo Web site?) on hand all night, who were we to complain? David Garza ducked in and out for a couple of songs--no more, no less.

Generally, they followed a very loose pattern: Group huddles; mulls over song choices; decides on song; pulls it off beautifully, usually with a solo opportunity for each musician; ends song; crowd begins whooping. Sara said they had gone through part of all the songs at least once, and Sean explained that they even had a short list, though they quickly realized it wouldn't do them any good. They carried a tiny tatter of a sheet onstage, but I can't imagine that it had every song they eventually played.

There was no clear leader, and the musicians simultaneously deferred to and egged on each other: moving out of the way so that the audience could view the soloist, for example, while calling each other out for spontaneous solos during the course of each song. Considering the lulls we witnessed, it's amazing that they managed to get in as many tunes as they did.

Sara and Sean honed in on covers, while Gillian and David did a few originals, mostly at the request of the other musicians onstage. With the seamless harmonies on the second song, my heart grew about a dozen sizes, and I wanted to cry every time Benmont touched the keys. Sara's voice was especially enchanting on "Different Drum," though the swooping vocals seemed to take a lot out of her. Evonne and I giggled like schoolgirls when Sean turned in "Moonshiner" with an arrangement that highlighted his bluegrass instincts, though he acknowledged that Dylan and Uncle Tupelo, among others, beat him to the punch.

Gillian and David were a complete revelation (groan) to me. Obviously, I didn't take their appearance with Elvis Costello last week to be representative of their sound or dynamic, but I suspect that what they pulled off at Largo would've surprised their faithful as well. Sure, we got tons of Dylan, as well as traditional folk songs. Though they've been known to pull off "White Rabbit" in past shows, it was still a hoot, and when David prodded Gillian into "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" (because, she claimed, he wanted to sing one of the lines from the song), it took a moment to absorb the full, delicious irony of the situation. At the end, nearly the entire group looked to Benmont, who declared that it was a great song.

Their years of collaboration showed, as you watched them communicate with looks and chords--no words needed. David would play a couple of notes from a specific song and peer at Gillian for a response, and that'd be it. Off to the races!

True to the spirit of Largo, Gillian took to the drums a few times. Sometimes, it was just a light touch on brushes and the kick drum, such as on "Write Myself a Letter," but she rocked hard on at least a couple of selections. After David silently mouthed "drums" to her and tipped his head to the back of the stage, she headed to the kit for "Positively 4th Street," and "Short People" had her banging away too.

In a night of eye-openers, David Rawlings was the most amazing of them all. Again, I plead complete ignorance of his work, but after the show, Evonne confirmed that he generally takes a more buttoned-down role with Gillian. In utter contrast to that image, tonight, he was an instigator and a ringleader--and a mischievous one, at that! He sang a lot and suggested a number of songs for Gillian. Of course, with Gillian, he turned in perfect harmonies, though his voice by itself was reedier. But he owned the last batch of Dylan selections, and "Country Girl" was right on target as well.

I think we should've been suspicious when David and Jon took the stage, tripping over each other's heels and laughing at some private joke. Not long after they started, Jon shared a short anecdote about walking past the bar to get to the stage and a guy yelling out, "I love you, David!" Jon informed the patron that David was only a few steps behind, and sure enough, as he continued to the front, he heard the guy repeat it to David. Jon added that he couldn't agree more.

Throughout the night, Jon and David could be seen in private conference, constantly in smiles and sharing a few hugs. Just as I was whispering to Evonne that Jon and David were BFFs and should totally make out with each other, they launched into "Positively 4th Street"--sharing the mic. It was a major RSBF moment. Swoon.

Jon and David don't particularly resemble each other, but they're about the same height with similar builds, and they certainly shared a healthy enthusiasm and sense of adventure onstage. Watching them play together, I had no problem seeing them as kindred spirits. Later, when Evonne told me that David did a lot of production work, it added another dimension to their connection.

If I had to choose a single highlight of the show, it'd be David's earnest, bare-bones rendition of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." I couldn't believe my ears, but he followed through, slyly smiling the whole time. Inevitably, someone in the peanut gallery called out for "Time After Time," and it proved to be a lesson to be careful what you ask for. Even as the rest of the musicians shrugged it off as an impossibility, Jon turned in a couple of licks, and they were on their way, though no one could remember the lyrics. Perhaps unsatisfied with the effort, Jon took the helm for a "Sun style" reading of "All Through the Night."

Oh right, the Jon Brion content: Jon sang only a few songs and didn't even add backing vocals to many of the titles. In my very biased opinion, the pace really picked up with Jon's first turn on lead vocals, the aforementioned "Positively 4th Street." It may have helped that Greg had joined them by then, but it was one of those communal, sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs moments that will forever bring me back to Largo.

Along with Sean, Jon was the most willing to chat with the audience, and he had a couple of zingers tonight. After "Look at Miss Ohio," on which he had played the drums, he came to the front of the stage specifically to declare, "Hots damn, I love me that song." Later, after another sparse, moving double harmony from Gillian and David, Jon held forth on the four things we should all do:
  1. Learn to write.
  2. Learn to sing.
  3. Learn to play an instrument.
  4. Learn to listen to each other sympathetically.

Before I truly lose everyone, I want to get in some words about Benmont and Greg. I've blogged extensively about Benmont, but this was my first time seeing Greg, who initially came to my attention on the Grant Lee Buffalo records. There's nothing I can say that a million other grateful music lovers haven't already, but I have to note that there was something very comforting about seeing these industry veterans anchoring their respective ends of the stage and the songs themselves. During "Tennessee Waltz," in particular, the two of them carved out a slice of heaven with their combined solos. And in a sure sign that the feeling was shared, Jon roared, "More!" at both of them during "My Baby Left Me."

I should've wrapped this up about 1,000 words ago, but before I release this to the Internets and my five faithful readers, I'll add a few details that I can't let go:
  • In the middle of the first extended huddle of the night, Jon brightened considerably and declared, "It's our first lull!"
  • Jon's blistering ukulele solo on "Positively 4th Street"
  • Jon revealing the name of the band: WWWRBT, or WWWRBTL when Greg joined
  • Not bothering to adjust the mic, Sean standing on his tiptoes to sing "Short People" with Jon
  • Sean and David, respectively, taking the first two verses of "Don't Think Twice It's Alright" (yet another no-brainer request from me) but messing up the lyrics, recruiting Jon for the third verse, then handing off the fourth verse to Gillian
  • David shadowing Jon and adding Elvis-parodying harmonies during "My Baby Left Me," while they grinned at each other nonstop
  • David and Jon speaking in nonsensical shorthand about "baby," which turned out to be the last song of the evening: "Baby You're a Rich Man"

OK, I'm really done now. Thanks for sticking it out! Come to Largo more often!

The setlist:
--You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go [Sean]
--Early Mornin' Rain [Sara]
--I Hear Them All [David]
--One More Dollar [Gillian]
--Different Drum [Sara]
--Look at Miss Ohio [Gillian]
--Any Old Time [Sara]
--Moonshiner [Sean]
--Wicked Messenger [David and Gillian]
--Throw Me a Rope [Gillian and David]
--Positively 4th Street [Jon]
--Write Myself a Letter [Sean]
--Country Girl [David]
--Don't Worry Baby [David Garza]
--Keys to the Kingdom [Gillian]
--Short People [Sara]
--Tennessee Waltz [Sara]
--Bury Me Beneath the Willow [Sean]
--Girls Just Wanna Have Fun [David]
--Time After Time [David]
--All Through the Night [Jon]
--White Rabbit [Gillian]
--My Morphine [Gillian]
--Stop Dragging My Heart Around [Gillian and David]
--Luminous Rose [David]
--Don't Think Twice It's Alright [Sean, David, Jon, and Gillian]
--Queen Jane Approximately [David]
--My Baby Left Me [Jon]
--Baby You're a Rich Man [David]

brackets = lead singer

See also:
» now I try to be amused
» top 5 Largo memories