It's impossible to say whether Jon Brion's Friday residencies at Largo will ever return, either sooner or later, so it's more crucial than ever to see them when you can. At least, that's what I've been telling myself for the last year-plus when booking flights down south.
Jon Brion, Largo, July 20, 2007: Following Flanagan's opening invitation, Jon greeted us with a more familiar take on the Largo proprietor's introduction ("get your knickers in a twist") and jumped into a song directly inspired by the man's words. I love the idea of Jon doing "Let's Get It On," and it's requested often, but I have yet to hear him offer a straight take on it. Tonight was no different, as Jon went with the vocoder--and got plenty of laughs in the process. He stayed on the piano for "Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way," a relative rarity among his self-penned tracks, followed by a somber instrumental.
I guess Thursday night's technical problems had been resolved because upon asking for requests, Jon moved to the guitars, first rocking out on Gershwin, then an exquisite "Strings That Tie to You" (and making use of the loopers that had been absent Thursday). "Further Along" began on a Les Paul-like note before settling into heavier, more distorted territory, and I probably wouldn't have figured out the "short 'Rhapsody in Blue' with fuzz" if Jon hadn't cited it himself.
Back at the piano, Jon picked up on the twin requests for Kanye West and, depending on whom you ask, either Tom Waits or Randy Newman for a version of "Gold Digger," the likes of which I doubt we'll ever hear again. Following a straightforward "Itchycoo Park," Jon fanned out some so-called Cliff Notes for the next two songs, both midtempo numbers. The first he built up, and the second was solo piano. I can't find any info on either tune, which leads me to suspect they're originals. Though they didn't necessarily sound like unpopular pop, there was a wryness to the lyrics that could indicate Jon's touch. Rounding out this unindentifiable threesome was a great, rocking song that I've now heard at least three times, though its provenance continues to elude me.
"Here We Go" came through on the organ, which lent the song a grave and sobering air, in the process casting Jon's dulcet tones in greater relief. I definitely prefer the piano for this song; the organ doesn't do justice to the tune's trademark trill, but I won't say no to Jon's attempt at a reinterpretation.
Jon returned to the drums for a song build, and a verse or so in, his co-writer joined him. It was Grant-Lee Phillips, who actually needed lyrics printed off the Internet to help him remember the words. I think he even messed up a verse! In Grant's defense, it's probably been almost 10 years since he and Jon wrote this song. They shared vocals, guitar duties, and a mic on "Knock Yourself Out" (Grant again using lyrics procured from the Web), then switched to the piano (Grant) and organ (Jon) for two Grant Lee Buffalo numbers. The "cozy" fit, as noted by Grant, didn't seem to impede either artist, as both selections sounded great.
Jon next called on his top onstage collaborator of late, catching Benmont in the middle of a couple of libations. In addition to manning the keys, Benmont added backing vocals to "Pale Blue Eyes," though "Benny and the Jets" was all Grant--especially when he changed the chorus to "Benmont and the Jon." Speaking of, Jon took the mic for "Moonage Daydream," even appending a bar or so of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" to the outro.
With Grant still on lead vocals, they recruited Gabe Wicher for a couple of Neil Young songs, drawing to a close Grant's contributions for the evening. Taking his place was Fiona Apple for her standard set of covers. I dunno--she still reminds me of an Olsen twin, albeit one with a voice. Besides, my eyes and ears zeroed in on Benmont as he nearly turned "Everyday" into a duet and played as gorgeous a piano solo as you can imagine during "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and "Blue Skies." Gabe and Jon, however, were no slouches, particularly on their respective solos for "Walking After Midnight."
After Fiona left the stage, Gabe stuck around for a few more songs, if you count their rendition of "If I Only Had a Brain" (it's debatable). After much conferencing, they settled on a song that Gabe could sing: "Ruin My Day." Gabe claimed he didn't know all the lyrics, but he ended up asking for help from Jon only once, preceding the second verse. Through the rest of the song, it was all Gabe, gracing it with a touch of twang and a warm, homespun feel. Paul and I both found it weird to watch Jon play his own song while someone else sang it, but judging by the smile on Jon's face during Gabe's performance, the songwriter didn't seem to have a problem with the setup.
Gabe went back to the drums, and Jon and Benmont stuck to the keys for the final song, which turned out to be one of those classic tunes strongly associated with the Hammond: "Whiter Shade of Pale." David had requested half of it the night before, but I don't think he objected to hearing the full treatment tonight.
--Let's Get It On
--Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way
--Nice Work if You Can Get It
--Strings That Tie to You
--"short 'Rhapsody in Blue' with fuzz"
--Baby's in Black
--Gold Digger [in the style of Randy Newman]
--? [chorus: "Get over yourself"]
--? [lyrics: "Another trying day when you don't get your way..."]
--? [lyrics: "Happiness is overdue"]
--Here We Go
--Walking Through Walls [vocals = Jon and Grant]
--Knock Yourself Out [vocals = Jon and Grant]
--Fuzzy [vocals = Grant]
--Happiness [GLB version; vocals = Grant]
w/ Grant and Benmont
--Pale Blue Eyes [vocals = Grant]
--Benmont and the Jon, a.k.a. Benny and the Jets [vocals = Grant]
w/ Grant, Benmont, and Gabe
--Cinnamon Girl [vocals = Grant]
--Ohio [vocals = Grant]
w/ Benmont and Fiona
--Don't Get Around Much Anymore
--Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me
--Walking after Midnight
w/ Benmont and Gabe
--If I Only Had a Brain
--Ruin My Day [vocals = Gabe]
--Whiter Shade of Pale
» Night 1: maybe i'm learning
» Night 3: i can come to my senses