My Largo reservation mojo may have momentarily dried up, as I couldn't snag a table for either of Jon Brion's September shows. Fortunately, thanks to my forgiving freelance schedule and my love of lining up early, I made it in just fine.
Jon Brion, Largo, September 7, 2007: For the first time in a while, I attended this Jon Brion show by myself. It's far from a tragedy, but I've been so fortunate in sharing my musical memories lately that it's a reminder of another way in which I've become spoiled over the last several years.
My favorite perch at the back of the room is not a hardship post, but it's a trade-off. For one, you don't get your ears blown out by the tunes blaring out over the speakers, but you also miss some of the nuances of the stage, both in terms of performer interaction and overall spectacle. So I didn't see for myself Bobb Bruno's typical setup of fuzzy friends and the electronic drum kit, but as I had already spotted him earlier, I knew what was coming.
However, you needn't be anywhere near the stage to spot the huge bunny head bobbing through the crowd--to the strains of Wilco's "Outtasite (Outta Mind)," no less--as Bobb took the stage. Bobb followed through with his customary mix of electronic drums, played against ambient sounds as well as a rocking segment. If I knew how to describe it any other terms, I would, but that's all you're going to get for now.
Jon followed shortly after in a jacket so alarming that it almost made you disregard his lengthening locks; also, I think the coat was a little too small for him, as the sleeves didn't quite hit the wrists as they should (I heart Tim Gunn). This jacket would provide fodder for another segment of the show, but all in due time.
Jon opened with two distinct instrumental piano passages: the first a somber, abstract piece that at the beginning reminded me of "Trouble" before staking out its own territory, and the second, a jazzy, slightly more upbeat number.
That may have been the last juncture in the evening that Jon had any idea what he was doing, as he immediately declared that he was "more clueless than ever" and asked for requests. "Same Thing" served as the kickoff, as it has many a show, though with slightly different vocal phrasing and maybe a bum note somewhere in the fold.
Jon left the piano and picked up an acoustic guitar and a harmonica for "Meaningless." The setup provided the perfect bridge to "Knock Yourself Out," both requests.
Around this point, I threw in my old standby suggestion when I want to see Jon move to the drums and, if we're lucky, kick out the jams, which is how we got "Croatia," once again at a fairly languid pace. Scott in the soundbooth added to the effort by piping in the Larry Craig recording, but the guitar proved to be the catalyst for the song's awakening; Jon even suffered a broken string in the process.
The rockers took hold--at least momentarily--as Jon built up a propulsive "Girl I Knew" that went through all sorts of mutations before sidling into the finish. Both "Hook Line and Sinker" and "Love of My Life So Far" kept him on electric guitar and, thus, the livelier end of the spectrum.
On the heels of the Procol Harum request came a call for Foghat and, with it--finally--an explanation of the jacket, which apparently once belonged to the bass player of that same band, who inspired one of the many memorable segments of Yo La Tengo's "Sugarcube" video (Foghat Rule: Your fourth album must be double live). Jon was turned on to it by someone who saw it for sale on the Internet, and the rest is history.
It was back to the piano for a couple of songs, including a new one he tried out back in July. "Didn't Think It Would Turn Out Bad" got a relatively rare airing, and it sounded great built up; Jon dropped in its morphing outro so casually that it's easy to forget how much ground he covered in his selections. He closed out the first set with a Beatles track, and I don't hesitate to say that Eric Clapton has nothing on Jon.
Jon launched the second set with a snippet of "obscure Chris Stamey" before inviting Benmont Tench to the stage. I think it was Benmont's suggestion to play "Slow Down," and he emerged as the force of nature, pounding on the piano and celeste keys and moving Jon to yell, "You can't stop!"
Two became three with the addition of Fiona Apple, who ran through a number of her usual standards. Jon stepped up to the mic to contribute vocals for "Tonight You Belong to Me," and you could even call "Anything Goes" a duet by the time they were through. She left rather abruptly since she didn't know the words to "They Can't Take That Away from Me," but Jon handled those duties with aplomb. He was less convincing on "Sealed with a Kiss," but Benmont took up the slack.
This moved Jon to do something he claims he never does: He asked for a chair so that he could sit back and watch a concert--Benmont's. Of course, he remained on guitar, but the spotlight was once more on (not literally) Benmont, who gave us a seamless Bo Diddley/Buddy Holly medley and a half-time version of "I Wanna Be Sedated." There was some discussion over the next song, which required them to call back Fiona. I don't know what they decided on, only that it moved Jon to express his delight at the pairing in several ways: arms in the air or clutching his chest, eyes closed in ecstasy. The classics reigned through the end, when Jon belted out "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" to send us into the night.
--Bobb Bruno opener
--Knock Yourself Out
--Girl I Knew
--Hook Line and Sinker
--Love of My Life So Far
--Shine On Brightly
--Eternal Sunshine Theme
--new song ("Another trying day...")
--Didn't Think It Would Turn Out Bad/Everything Works Out if You Let It/Peter Gunn/Police on My Back
--While My Guitar Gently Weeps
--Slow Down *
--Everyday [vox = Fiona] **
--Tonight You Belong to Me [vox = Fiona] **
--Blue Skies [vox = Fiona] **
--Anything Goes [vox = Jon + Fiona] **
--They Can't Take That Away from Me *
--Sealed with a Kiss [vox = Benmont] *
--Hey Mona/Not Fade Away [vox = Benmont] *
--I Wanna Be Sedated [vox = Benmont] *
--??? [vox = Benmont + Fiona] **
--One for My Baby (and One More for the Road) *
* = with Benmont Tench
** = with Benmont Tench and Fiona Apple
» wouldn't have it any other way
» his name it did resound