Let the record show that between these dates and my last visit to Largo, Jon Brion played four--four!--shows that I didn't attend. And yes, there will be write-up of the Real Final Jon Brion Show at Largo on Fairfax, but it's going to have to take a number and get in line, just like all the other gigs I attend.
Jon Brion, Largo, April 25, 2008: For the last few months and for various reasons, I've somewhat struggled to fill my Largo reservations. The details usually work themselves out in one way or another, but there has been some finagling along the way. Not so this month, when a familiar cast of characters made the trek to Los Angeles for what we assumed were Jon's last shows before the move to the Coronet. Actually, I suspected that May 2 date would eventually loosen up, but we were kept guessing until shortly before Friday's show.
Flanny's announcement to the rest of the audience cut through the tension somewhat, but the air of finality managed to work its way into several numbers, though not immediately so. Per usual, Jon alternated a couple of instrumental piano pieces with more familiar compositions, in this case "Someone Else's Problem Now" and "Here We Go."
The "public soundcheck" concluded, he moved to the guitar for "Love of My Life" with a noisy ending and declared he was "ready to play." Rounding out the onstage loop, he went to the drums to build "Girl I Knew," but a broken string somewhat held back the song. Jon's emphasis on his own material carried through the next half-dozen songs, including an instrumental ragtime version of "That's Just What You Are." Somewhere in this sequence, he opined, "I hate guitars," but it was only a matter of time before he returned to them.
Jon had already started calling for requests, and from them he chose his first cover of the night. He asked for duct tape, with which he pinned down some hammers inside the piano, and beat out a rhythm from the same surface. I thought we might hear one of his old songs, but it turned out to be "Just What I Needed" à la "Same Thing." The Queen cover was beautifully straightforward, a contrast to the version he recorded for the tribute album a few years back, but the Replacements song might've been the biggest and most charming surprise.
I believe it was someone from the table next to ours who requested "the first song you did at Largo." Someone who was actually at that first show will have to verify if Jon made good on the suggestion, but his choice of "I'll Take You Anyday" seems like a reasonable response. Following that, Jon voiced a need to rock, but I'm not sure his languid, moody Ellington build qualified. More memorable (at least for me) was the way he seized on the "Personal Jesus" request and twisted it into "People Are People" in the style of Les Paul. That's not something I would've guessed I'd ever hear when listening to the band in 7th grade!
The second set started off with more technical problems, but Jon used it anyway to create the foundational drone upon which he eventually built "Tomorrow Never Knows." From there, he went the more direct route for requests with a straightforward command, "Call it." Heidi got the first one off the bat (T. Rex), and I think I got the second one ("Love Is the Drug"), for which he invited Sebastian Steinberg onstage. Unfortunately, two things interfered with the performance: the D key on the piano gave out, and Jon couldn't quite remember it, though we got the whisper of a couple of verses. What the hell, I won't say no.
Largo's own Griffy stepped onstage to do his best MacGyver impression; with nothing but a cocktail straw and his Spidey sense, he jimmied the errant key in place and was asked to supply the musical accompaniment to "Cinnamon Girl." Fortunately, a replacement in the form of Benmont Tench (who must've zipped over from the Mudcrutch show at the Troubador) relieved him of his duties.
Benmont made his presence known in the next several songs as well. For "Time of the Season," he supplied the backing vocals (as did we, it should be noted), along with the syncopated handclaps. Meanwhile, his piano skills were as prominent as ever, as he worked his way from deliberately ham-fisted maneuvers to twinkly, dainty notes.
Jon asked us to drum on our tabletops for the next song, which turned out to be "For Your Love." I don't know if we held up our end of the deal, but Jon and Benmont certainly did.
From there, it was the chamber pop stylings of Sex Pistols, in what I usually characterize as a "Penny Lane" pace. Benmont furnished a clue to part of the inspiration when he dropped "Candy Man" on the celeste into the mix.
With David Garza jumping into the action, they first went into the audience request for "Raspberry Beret," featuring Jon and David on alternating vocals. The third verse once again flummoxed the crew, but tonight, Heidi and I (mostly Heidi) helped fill in the blanks until they regained their footing in time for the lyrical payoff.
David explained that the next song was something he always wanted to dedicate to Jon, and this was finally his opportunity to do so, and they tore into "Johnny B. Goode," followed by the apropos "Save the Last Dance for Me." After Jon's turn at the mic for "To Know Him Is to Love Him," David took the reins for a song he did last month, though in a slightly different style. Benmont mostly sat out the Stray Cats song, perhaps due to that faulty piano key, but he returned to the action by directly playing the piano hammers instead.
Jon often demurs on the requests for "Let's Get It On," but the quartet gave it a try tonight. While David retreated to the drums, Jon at first picked up vocal duties, but he somehow transferred them mid-song to Sebastian instead. Sebastian, for his part, had the kind of deep voice suited to after-hours entertainment, but he forgot most of the lyrics and started ad-libbing them instead (to hilarious effect). Jon, meanwhile, supplied harmonies -- when Benmont's solo wasn't transporting him. They then closed the night with two instrumental tracks of the slinky, seductive variety.
Stay tuned for part two.
--Someone Else's Problem Now
--Here We Go
--Love of My Life So Far
--Girl I Knew
--Over Our Heads
--Knock Yourself Out
--Hook Line and Sinker
--That's Just What You Are
--Why Do You Do This to Yourself
--Just What I Needed
--Making Plans for Nigel
--Play the Game/Life on Mars
--I'll Take You Anyday
--I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)
--People Are People [Les Paul style]
--Tomorrow Never Knows
--Life's a Gas
--Love Is the Drug *
--Cinnamon Girl **
--Time of the Season ***
--For Your Love ***
--Anarchy in the UK ***
--Raspberry Beret [Jon and David] ****
--Johnny B. Goode/Save the Last Dance for Me [David] ****
--To Know Him Is to Love Him ****
--Stray Cat Strut [David] ****
--Let's Get It On [Jon & Sebastian] ****
brackets indicate singer
* = with Sebastian Steinberg
** = with Sebastian Steinberg, Griffy, and Benmont Tench
*** = with Sebastian Steinberg and Benmont Tench
**** = with Sebastian Steinberg, Benmont Tench, and David Garza
» the world will revolve
» it's been said many times, many ways
» the end is near
» Night Two: where they feel safe and sound