Jon Brion, Largo, December 17, 1999: My Largo roots are somewhat murky. I know I initially came for Grant Lee Phillips's shows, but the main bone of contention has to do with the year. I can't recall if it was 1998 or 1999. Regardless, I believe my friends and I saw Jon Brion pop in at three separate Grant shows before we took the plunge and checked him out for ourselves. The edited report follows.
Subject: Jon Brion
Dec. 21, 1999
[Jon] did a bunch of songs from his album, most of which are piano-driven numbers, though he took up the electric guitar for a few of them. The tunes are very songwriterly, ranging from delicate, introspective tunes to barroom rockers, but they're not really Jon's selling point. Simply, Jon is the most amazing musician I've ever seen. I've attended other shows where he's pitched in and added all kinds of flourishes and touches to other people's songs. The highlight of his set was a medley of songs, with him on the piano and Butch (from the eels) on drums. They started off with some Chuck Berry-esque song, went into the Pink Panther theme, segued into Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water," threw in a touch of Foreigner's "Hot Blooded," and rolled into the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" (and those are only the songs I could identify) before a circuit blew by his piano, at which point he screamed, "Y2K!"
Jon also created his own wall of sound for the very last song. He had a full band setup on stage, but he also had two little contraptions that made a hell of a difference during the set. He used both of them throughout the show, but I noticed it the most at the end. One looked like a tiny Casio keyboard. On the last song, he sang a range of notes into it, then combined all of his vocals into a choirlike effect, so that he was basically backing himself, though there was no one else onstage. The other little gizmo was a sampler of some sort. He created his own rhythm tracks with this one. It's kind of hard to describe, but he sampled something from the piano for the last song, and all of a sudden, he had a wall of sound behind him (again, he was the only person onstage). Then he started an old record player with a scratchy needle and ran a couple of music boxes, all for this one song.
It should come as a surprise to no one that the the last description refers to a breathtaking version of "Voices," still my favorite performance of it ever.
Do you want to hear the kicker? Apparently, the week before, it was Jon's 36th birthday, and just about every Largo-related superstar showed up. Hey, it only took me another five years to finally see Neil Finn at Largo! But I've been able to find a cool bootleg of the show when I want to relive the memories. Thus, I present you with an MP3 of the medley described above:
» Jon Brion, "Be My Baby" medley
Enjoy! One of these days, I'll put up the "Mission Impossible/Now I Know My ABC's/Baba O'Riley" medley from the same show.
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