Under other circumstances, I could've floated home on the memory of Friday's exhilarating gig. However, moderation was not in the cards this weekend as we reconvened at Largo for Jon Brion's second show in as many days.
Jon Brion, Largo, June 9, 2007: The night before, the crowd vying to get into Largo swamped the sidewalk, as would-be patrons planted themselves on the pavement and picnicked against the distinctly unpastoral backdrop of Fairfax Village. I called it a refugee camp; my cousin suggested a tailgate party. Saturday, however, offered a welcome contrast, and not just because I had a reservation.
Admittedly, my tolerance for Largo's cuisine and Jon's musical escapades exceeds that of most people, but I'm always surprised by how few repeat customers take advantage of a Jon Brion two-fer weekend. In addition to not working from a setlist, Jon makes an effort to not repeat himself; if he's on a Bowie kick one night, he's likely to go for anyone but the following show. Part of the fun, then, is tuning in to see who or what turns up.
Jon hit the stage, fresh faced and with a bounce. I missed his opening ramble, so I'm not sure how he landed on "Swanee River," but the transition to "Someone to Watch Over Me" drew us into more familiar territory. For the latter, Jon thanked us for humoring his "fake Bach section" but disclosed he was also working around a swizzle stick embedded between the piano keys. The Eternal Sunshine theme completed the introductory instrumental trifecta.
Jon asked for requests and chose my suggestion for "Nothing Between Us." It's been a while since I've heard him do the song, and a similar comment from Jon bore out this observation.
Switching gears, Jon took up a guitar and started looping. From there, he added drums and piano for a song I've finally figured out: "Croatia." (Little did I know I'd be busted at the end of the night for this breakthrough.) I guess I got used to Chris Thile's accompaniment pretty quickly because I missed his counterplay tonight. Then again, it was nice to hear it with drums again.
Remnants of Friday's festivities were still visible onstage: two empty cans of Red Bull underneath the piano bench, the extra mic stand that hadn't been removed. Jon encountered another one as he tried to slip on an acoustic guitar. It sat laughably high on his lanky frame, and as he moved to fix it, he dropped leading hints as to who might be responsible for its state, culminating in a sitcom-worthy "Watkins!"
This build-up brought us to "Further Along," one of two songs he repeated over the two nights, though of course in different styles. He followed up with more originals, including the second performance of "Didn't Think It Would Turn Out Bad" I've heard.
"How Much Is That Doggie in the Window" got an upgrade from its usual station as between-song filler to a bona fide number on piano, preceding "Knock Yourself Out," once more on the piano and celeste but with slower phrasing. If Friday had been an outlet for beloved covers, we were finally getting some self-penned works in this second show.
The conclusion of "Excuse to Cry" elicited another call for requests, and Jon took his pick of two, mashing up, of all people, Ray Noble and Pete Shelley. I thought I heard "Strings That Tie to You" in Jon's next number, but it turned out to be "Ruin My Day."
Throughout the night, Jon had admitted he had no idea what he wanted to do, so when he returned to the piano, he repeated his need for requests. After the barrage of titles, he said something along the lines of "fuck it, I'm going to go there" and dove into "Strawberry Fields Forever." I can't say when the string of tunes coalesced into "Beatlesfest '07," but I'm the last person who'd complain about such a development, especially when the whole room is singing along. Benmont Tench's arrival didn't hurt either. The final bonus: Jon promised us a rare second set.
I always think Largo could get away with charging a lot more for the privilege of listening to Jon and Benmont cavort through the Beatles catalog; when they, in essence, serve as the backing band while we supply the vocals, that's worth another hike in admission.
On the whole, we did ourselves proud; you should've heard our coordinated intakes on "Girl," as well as the multiple-part harmonies on "You Won't See Me." We started off strong on "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" but dropped off precipitously for the second verse; fortunately, Jon pitched in (while tuning his guitar) with ad-libbed lyrics about getting to the chorus. In addition, we watched as Jon dashed to the bench between verses, fell down to his knees, and accompanied Benmont on celeste with "For No One." Also, his narrating and acting out the discovery of the power of the drum overdub in "No Reply" brimmed with a contagious sense of glee.
The second set began with a warning aimed at the Beatles naysayers and seemed to resume as planned with "I'm So Tired." But this scheme detoured immediately, as Jon and Benmont tried out alternate tracks. Benmont's musical reply to "Beast of Burden" so pleased Jon that he nearly doubled up in delight. Thus, the second set came to comprise some Beatles songs, but in Jon's own estimation, any song that had anything to do with the Beatles, in terms of influence or time frame or tone, was fair game.
The first set had primed our vocal chords, but in case we needed reminding, Jon lectured us on the merits of the singalong, likening it to church (I've heard that before). In any case, the advice couldn't--and didn't--hurt, as we took a tour of British Invasion-era favorites. Jon unapologetically churned out the "most obvious" Who song to get us going. Evonne came up with "Substitute." Jon delivered "Wild Thing" as nearly a spoken word piece, augmented by Benmont's flatteringly euphonious touch, as well as an audience member who chose to sing it in a falsetto that Jon compared to Michael MacDonald. And Benmont reaffirmed his mastery (again) on "I Keep It With Mine."
Beatlesfest '07 reemerged at the close of the set. We carried off most of "A Day in the Life" and hung in as Jon and Benmont perfected that song's famous final note. Jon gave us the entirety of "The End" this time, but the selection was misleading. They still had to get through the outro of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," which saw Jon at times careening toward Benmont as the two of them played off each other, before the final, convulsive ending.
--Swanee River [piano]
--Someone to Watch Over Me [piano]
--Eternal Sunshine Theme [piano]
--Nothing Between Us [piano]
--Croatia [song build]
--Further Along [acoustic guitar + harmonica]
--Happy with You [song build]
--Didn't Think It Would Turn Out Bad [song build]
--How Much Is That Doggie in the Window [piano]
--Knock Yourself Out [piano + celeste + harmonica]
--Excuse to Cry [electric guitar]
--The Very Thought of You/You Say You Don't Love Me [electric guitar]
--Ruin My Day [guitar and harmonica]
--Strawberry Fields Forever [vocoder + keyboard]
--I'm Only Sleeping
--Sexy Sadie [song build]
with Benmont Tench
--For No One
--You Won't See Me
--Ob La Di, Ob La Da
--Every Little Thing
--If I Needed Someone
--I Call Your Name
--I'm So Tired
--Beast of Burden
--So Sad About Us
--I Can't Reach You
--You Really Got Me
--Tired of Waiting for You
--How Do You Do It
--Walk Away Renee
--I Go to Pieces
--My Back Pages
--I'll Keep It with Mine
--A Day in the Life
--I Want You (She's So Heavy) [outro]
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