Thursday, July 31, 2008

choo choo charlie had a plenty good band

I love living in a city frequented by national and international touring bands--even if I don't take advantage of the situation as much as I should--but there's something about getting out of town (way out of town) to catch your favorite acts in an entirely new setting, preferably one that would be hard to justify otherwise. Well, that's my excuse for following Wilco to Alaska, anyway. And it's one of the best rationalizations I've made in a long time.

Wilco, The Blue Loon, July 25, 2008: We had already spent two-plus days in Alaska before the first Wilco show, and in that time, we managed to cover lots of ground. Our ambitious itinerary included a stroll through the tiny town of Talkeetna, a far too brief foray into the vast and breathtaking Denali National Park, a dip in the refreshing Chena Hot Springs, and two nights at the coolest B&B ever--all before the first concert.

Wilco, The Blue Loon, 7-25-08

Most people may not consider them on par with the Seven Wonders of the World, but rock clubs and venues, in all their variations, totally fascinate me, and they're just as integral to the rock tourism experience as the band I'm seeing and the city I'm visiting. In fact, considering how much time I spend in lines and waiting on sidewalks, they may take precedence over the municipalities themselves. In Fairbanks, this meant an open-air, sawdust-floored space right off one of the main Alaska highways. Although the superscary bugs (eek!) threatened to ruin the day, the rain remained in check, and the concert went off without a hitch.

I've lost track of how many times I've seen Wilco, but I know that I still love their gigs, and I can tell you why--I mean, besides being a creature of habit and having a high tolerance for repetition. But apart from those ticks, I love the fine details of each show. Sometimes it's as obvious as Jeff Tweedy's banter or unusual song choices or an especially blistering solo by any of the band members. Tonight, I'd bestow that honor on Mikael Jorgensen, who brought the birdsong to "Summerteeth," which tickled me to no end.

Wilco, The Blue Loon, 7-25-08

Overall, the band was almost visibly loose. For example, Jeff forgot several lyrics, including the seeming no-brainer "California Stars," not that he was alone in the missteps--but that's not a complaint. I actually enjoy seeing those sheepish grins flit between the musicians as they subtly correct themselves. But instead of reining themselves in, they forged on, closing the show with a clamorous "Hoodoo Voodoo" that left us--and the band--simultaneously beaming and bellowing.

Wilco, The Blue Loon, 7-25-08

A large part of the credit for this rollicking show goes to the crowd. Though their fandom may have spilled over into frenzy toward the end of the concert, there was no denying their appreciation for the band. During the first encore, I looked over my right shoulder and saw raised arms and agape mouths--there was no apathy or ennui here. We in the Lower 48 may complain about musicians passing us by, but we got nothing on the Alaskans.

Oh right--the band also debuted two new songs in Alaska! I like what I heard, especially the spiraling three-guitar interplay on "One Wing." On paper, it may bring to mind "Impossible Germany," but it felt more structured than the Sky Blue Sky showcase. "Sunny Feeling," meanwhile, was instantly hummable. I can't wait to hear more of them in the months (years?) to come.

See also:
» all of my maps have been overthrown

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

bang bang shoot shoot

I wasn't planning to catch two Jon Brion shows in a row. If nothing else, I'm putting off the inevitable: those dark spells where I'll have to wait weeks or--heaven forbid--months between visits to Largo. But until diminishing reserves of denial or fossil fuels take their toll, you know where to find me.

Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, July 11, 2008: My brother likes to quip that I'd be a cinch to assassinate, thanks to my well-worn habits. I'm not sure if these weekly Jon Brion shows at Largo help or hinder the case, but hey, there are worse ways to go.

After Flanny's intro (in which he referred to Largo's other favorite sons and daughters as "peasants"), Jon ambled onstage with Red Bull in hand, bade us good morning, and touched down on the piano keys, tickling out his usual improvisational preamble. He followed with a hint of the 2001 theme, then a meatier portion of "Tomorrow Never Knows," though without vocals.

The call for requests rang out instantly, and first out of the gate was "Mayor of Simpleton," a song I not only love but have discussed with Evonne for months on end. Evonne has even requested it, though to no avail, so it was doubly regretful that she couldn't attend tonight. Confirming my suspicions, Jon warned us there was no way he'd remember all the lyrics, and even working out the melody and chords took a little while longer than usual. But he carried it off, delivering it as an instrumental, then singing a bit of the chorus a cappella at the very end.

The hint of Abba may have been triggered by an audience request, and Jon added his own comments on the upcoming Mamma Mia movie, but "Play the Game" was the real thing, free of the effects he often piles upon the song.

Following this sequence, he reprimanded himself for being stuck in a "G-hole" for six months, playing nothing in any other key. To break the spell, he spun 180 degrees on the bench, hid his eyes, and reached behind his back to blindly pick a random key. The winner: D, but I'm not sure how much he stuck to this, as he offered that the next song had some D in it. Oh well, it was his own "Girl I Knew"--not a bad consolation prize.

Jon wanted more requests, and we tried to supply them. He entertained "Sentimental Lady" for a couple of lines, then admitted that was the most Bob Welch ever played at Largo. "Paranoid Android" got a fuller treatment, with the chamberlin/mellotron/whatever (I gotta find out one of these days) beautifully supplying a chorus-like effect on the song's bridge. I think Jon slipped another tune, something more rocking and not typically paired with Radiohead, into the mix, but I couldn't guess at a title, so that hunch remains unsubstantiated.

After one more selection on the piano (a Dylan title), Jon picked up the guitar for the first time that night for his own "Further Along," trimmed with nothing else but harmonica. He went even more minimal on the Evan Dando collaboration "It Looks Like You," which required only the bass.

"Sleepwalk" eased in, as is its languid, seductive wont. We got no more than 30 seconds of the Dick Dale song, but "Hey Joe" elicited the first song build of the night. Jon faced some guitar difficulties along the way, forcing him to switch up in the middle of the song and almost--almost--making him miss a vocal cue. The guitar troubles led him to the Rickenbacker and the ensuing request for "She Said She Said," which shifted seamlessly to "Within You, Without You" toward the end.

Ultimately, though, the technical glitches drove Jon back to the piano, where he dispatched a roster of his personal favorites, his own songs, some improv, and a bunch of requests. I got in a suggestion for the Smiths, and Jon worked up a gorgeous reading of "Famous Blue Raincoat" for another audience member. He had to beg off "Let's Misbehave," as he didn't remember the words, but "All in the Family" played out in the end, morphing into one of those crowd-pleasing ragtime takes he often manages to wring out of unlikely titles.

The vocoder featured prominently in the next string of requests, obfuscating songs Jon doesn't necessarily like. But it also offered an avenue into "More Than This," which reminded me how fortunate I am to have abandoned all logic at the same time that Jon decided to make the tune a mainstay of his shows.

I'm not sure if we've seen any traditions yet establish themselves at the still new Largo at the Coronet, but if the closing sing-along becomes a reliable part of the venue's fabric, you won't hear me protesting. The audience, to no one's surprise, settled on the Beatles--and a mercifully short selection, at that. I think we did pretty well, especially that one guy a few rows back who nailed every intonation and wasn't shy about sharing it. OK, so as Jon indicated, we sang over the guitar solo, but I chalk it up to bright-eyed enthusiasm and not mere incompetence.

The second set commenced with something resembling a plan, as Jon knocked out a couple of welcome favorites, including the relatively rare and always heartfelt "Happiness" by Elliott Smith. Maybe they'll figure out the guitar issues at the Coronet one of these days, but if that means we'll instead get Jon primarily at the piano, that's cool too.

Jon left the bench to welcome Sebastian Steinberg onstage, carrying a metal stand-up bass. Jon proceeded to tell us how the bass came into his possession (apparently, the military used to make them, and Jon found it at a used instrument store in Seattle), then jumped on it in tandem with Sebastian. While Sebastian plucked the strings, Jon pounded on the instrument, first with a brush and a mallet, then only his hands. The initial bossa nova-like sway folded into a more rocking attack until the two of them found a way to conclude this unlikely diversion.

Jon returned to the piano, where their musical meandering led to the Star Trek theme, complete with lyrics--not the first time Jon has revealed this knowledge to a Largo audience. This was no mere joke, either; Jon's propulsive body language showed that he was fully invested in this work. Even Sebastian had to marvel at this glimpse into Jon's thought processes.

The Coronet arguably holds one major advantage over the old room: It lends itself beautifully to group performances, especially of the impromptu variety that Largo is known for. Sure, it was a lot of fun--and a bit sadistic--seeing how many people could squeeze onto the old Largo's tiny stage, but it seems to me that the lack of physical constraints at the Coronet has freed the performers further. And thanks to that one amazing microphone, they sound better than ever.

Jon and Sebastian took advantage of this setup to channel Django Reinhardt for a couple of Who tunes and, with the help of Sean Watkins, the Sex Pistols as well. From there, they circled back to more traditional selections, then changed up a bit to carry off the Dylan request, carting the magical microphone to the piano instead of leaving it at the center of the stage. Helping out was Sean on harmonies and acoustic guitar, adding up to an evocative, emotional version of "It's All Over Now Baby Blue." It's a song we don't hear enough at Largo, but then again, perhaps that's why each performance of it feels so remarkable.

Jon tried to close out the second set with another sing-along, but our ideas refused to take hold. He vamped through a couple of them, such as "Young Turks," which he guaranteed was not being replicated anywhere in Los Angeles that night. With the audience's collective brain trust exhausted, Jon went with his own instincts, first easing out a jazzy instrumental I should know but can't quite name, then with the Billie Holiday classic.

The Coronet experience continues to evolve, and we saw a new facet tonight: an encore. We clapped, we cheered, the lights remained low, and Jon returned, then brought Sebastian, Sean, and another Sean: Nelson, of Harvey Danger. Jon and Sean Nelson soon emerged as the main players, with Sean Watkins leaving first, then Sebastian retreating soon after. Neil Young provided the impetus, but the rest of their set comprised Ray Davies songs. Sean started out strong, but by the end, Jon was in the driver's seat, helping Sean when he couldn't remember the lyrics.

When Sean exhausted his repertoire, Jon finished up as he started: by himself. He sent us off with a favorite Hank Snow song, ostensibly for Sean's ears, but enveloping us all.

See you in August.

Set 1
--noodling/Thus Spake Zarathustra/Tomorrow Never Knows
--Mayor of Simpleton
--Play the Game
--Girl I Knew
--Sentimental Lady
--Paranoid Android
--Just Like a Woman
--Further Along
--It Looks Like You
--Hey Joe
--She Said/Within You, Without You
--I Don't Hurt Anymore
--The Way It Went
--Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now
--Famous Blue Raincoat
--Let's Misbehave
--All in the Family theme
--Cheers theme
--You Shook Me All Night Long/Cheers theme/L.A. Woman/Controversy/Light My Fire
--More Than This
--Happiness Is a Warm Gun

Set 2
--Life on Mars
--Please Stay Away from Me
--Thelonius Monk piece

w/Sebastian Steinberg
--two-man, one-bass improv
--Star Trek theme
--Pinball Wizard

w/Sebastian Steinberg and Sean Watkins
--Anarchy in the UK
--My Baby Left Me
--The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me [Sean Watkins]
--It's All Over Now Baby Blue
--I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)

Set 3
w/Sean Nelson
--Cinnamon Girl
--This Is Where I Belong
--Get Back in Line
--Tired of Waiting for You
--Do You Remember Walter
--Mr. Pleasant

--Tangled Mind

See also:
» a change might be a thing to try
» we can be us

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Didn't I just see Nels Cline play a show a little while ago? Actually, isn't that the case with nearly every musician mentioned in this blog? You don't have to answer that.

The Scott Amendola Band/The Jim Campilongo Electric Trio, Cafe du Nord, July 7, 2008: As usual, I'll try to keep this short; if you want an account of tonight's show by someone who actually understands jazz, you'll have to look elsewhere. But for surface recollections, you've come to the right place.

The man of the evening was Scott Amendola, who played drums with both co-headliners, accompanied by John Shifflett on bass in the two instances, as well. With the Jim Campilongo Electric Trio, Scott took a more traditional turn, anchoring Jim's bluesy, honky-tonk-leaning compositions, which were as fun as all get-out. I can't remember the names of the songs, but I loved an especially Dick Dale-sounding work that made me long for a touch of wind and surf in the sauna-like confines of Cafe du Nord.

Scott Amendola Band, Cafe du Nord, 7-7-08

After a short break, Scott returned with his namesake band, complete with two guitarists: Nels Cline and Jeff Parker. I'd seen variations on this configuration a few years ago, as well as last fall, but that didn't necessarily mean we were in for a repeat of either performance.

Scott Amendola Band, Cafe du Nord, 7-7-08

As it turned out, the show more closely resembled the concert from a few years ago, though with Jeff Parker instead of Jenny Scheinman facing off against Nels, in that they mostly stuck with Scott's works. They started off with a trio of tunes from the group's album Believe: the title track, "Cesar Chavez," and "Resistance" all melding into each other for a resounding demonstration of the players' range. From the ethereal to the funky to the abstract, they covered it all.

On the heels of the salutatory medley, Nels and Jeff Parker kicked off "Shady" with complementary but competing licks. I couldn't catch the name of the song that followed, but they closed out the first part of their set with "Oladipo," which came across like the soundtrack to some '70s cop drama, albeit with massive amounts of electronic manipulation and guitar flagellation thrown in.

Scott Amendola Band, Cafe du Nord, 7-7-08

Jim returned for the second half of their set, which began with a work in progress called "Lima Bean" that was as playful as its name might indicate. Here, they made use of the triple-guitar possibilities, as each artisan contributed his distinct take on the bouncy melody. Before the night was over, they also eased out something called "Lullaby," complete with tinkling bells and liquid chords. I believe they closed out with "No Fly" from the Nels Cline Singers, but don't hold me to it. Regardless, it was a scorcher, even in perpetually chilly San Francisco.

See also:
» ascension
» sunken song
» smarty pants

Friday, July 04, 2008

the shining hour

I missed Grant-Lee Phillips's gig in San Francisco--that city where I live--a couple of weeks ago. So much for supporting touring musicians. But on the other hand, once you go Largo, you might as well issue an embargo...on other venues. (Groan.) Errrr, I'll leave the pithy catchphrases to those who know how to craft them and stick with overlong concert narrations instead. See below.

Grant-Lee Phillips and Friends, Largo at the Coronet, June 28, 2008: These days, I'm always on the lookout for shows to append to my Friday night plans, but once upon a time, you were more likely to find me at Largo on Saturdays to take in the gorgeous vocal (and 12-string) stylings of Grant-Lee Phillips. However, I've droned on far too often about my Largo Journey of Discovery, so let's skip the history lecture.

Anyhoo, with that pattern established, is it any wonder that my Largo at Coronet plans would soon be augmented with other shows? Of course not! Look out, Little Room! (Eventually.)

Opening for Grant was a clutch of Largo regulars: Sara and Sean Watkins, Luke Bolla, and Greg Leisz. They tried out old and new songs, and announced an as-yet unnamed new project they were working on with four other musicians, many of them staples of the Largo stage and luminaries in their own right. A few of the tunes had a stronger bluegrass feel than the more straightforward folk songs they seem to favor at Largo, but considering there were two fiddles and one pedal steel present, you had to expect as much.

Once they dispersed, it was time for the headliner. As a solo artist, Grant has enjoyed a good deal of freedom, sometimes performing entirely on his own, other times with backing players. In the new room, it made sense to have support, and lending their talents to Grant's songs tonight were Jamie Edwards, more often seen accompanying Aimee Mann on piano, and a few songs in, Eric Gorfain of the Section Quartet as well. Together, they formed yet another of Largo's one-night-only trios, in a configuration that was new to me, a longtime Grant watcher.

This very un-rock trio took on Grant's catalog, from the folksy to the glam to the rocking, emphasizing the soul in Grant's already emotive songs. Grant initially led the way, but he quickly opened up the floor to audience requests. I usually come to Largo with a request in mind, and Grant makes it especially easy, as I have several strong preferences and sentimental favorites among his recordings. Thus, I got in the first suggestion for "Stars 'n' Stripes," my most beloved Grant Lee Buffalo song. Ordinarily, I wouldn't delve so deep into the catalog early on, but Grant himself had broken out a few gems from Fuzzy anyway, including the eponymous track and "The Hook." My desert-island disc Mighty Joe Moon got a helluva workout too, but the audience also called for tons of solo selections, such as "Heavenly" and "Fountain of Youth," both of which Grant took up.

I was particularly interested in seeing how Jamie would fare under these conditions. I love Aimee Mann's music, but her live show, even at Largo, isn't known for its spontaneity; in comparison, Grant's impromptu approach could be daunting. No sweat, apparently--though he consulted a loose-leaf notebook filled with sheet music for much of the show, Jamie also freestyled from time to time, especially on the unplanned audience requests. I wish I could remember on which song Grant subtly encouraged him to stretch out--I'm pretty sure it was an older title--but Jamie obliged, gracing the tune with a light, charming stroke.

Eric was less of a question mark, as anyone who knows his work with the Section Quartet can tell you. Also, there's the matter of his having guested on a couple of Grant's albums and his long association with several of Largo's best-known talents. Eric's spotlight blazed during "The Shining Hour," when Sara and Luke reappeared. Each violinist turned in a distinctive solo spin on the old Grant Lee Buffalo song, but I can assure you that Eric's interpretation was the most rawk of the three.

When Largo's move to the Coronet was announced, we show-goers fretted about procedures, prices, general ambiance, and a million more details. Frankly, it never occurred to me that the artists too would have to plan accordingly. My guess is that Grant had taken it into consideration.

Of course, he started by bringing on Jamie and Eric, who were later joined by Greg Leisz, then Bill Bonk from GLB's later years, and eventually Sara and Luke, as mentioned above. Sean Watkins hopped on toward the end too, and fashionably late, Benmont Tench was the final guest, arriving in time for a couple of songs. This nine-piece hootenanny launched into Grant's own "Truly Truly," then closed it out with the traditional stomper "Hop High My Lulu Girl." Though I've seen Grant as part of some major supergroups at Largo, his own shows have usually been mellower affairs, so it was great to see him tap some of the talent that the Largo family has to offer--certainly he's been there for many of them as well.

See also:
» a change might be a thing to try
» Take Me Home, Country Pigeon
» it's not going to stop

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

a change might be a thing to try

The toughest part of coping with Largo at the Coronet hits at the end of the work week, when I finally let myself admit that I can't make it to the Jon Brion show, some 400 miles away, that evening. What is this--2005?!! I'm steeling myself for the inevitability of being MIA when some musician or another--OK, David Rawlings--pops in for visit, but I also know it's an exercise in denial. TGIF, my ass!

Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, June 27, 2008: Reality, however, couldn't impinge on this weekend's plans, as I made my latest trip to Largo this month. Honestly, I have some limits, though. I mean, I didn't drop in last weekend for the Largo film premiere. See? Total self-control!

I've been pretty sanguine about Largo's move from Fairfax to the Coronet. After all, if you've followed any musician's career over the years, you've seen (when plans proceed accordingly) said artist graduate from supporting slots to headlining gigs, from bars to clubs to theaters and so on. Of course, it's entirely your choice whether to follow this trajectory, and lord knows the vast majority of musicians lose me before they even make it to the Fillmore. For the ones I really like, though, I've battled unrelenting wind chill, barometer-busting heat, and small-town America, all for the service of a gig. In comparison, Largo's move to a 300-capacity theater is small potatoes.

Not that I necessarily felt that way a few weeks ago at Jon's first show in the new room. I mean, I wasn't prepping the obituary, but the show's hits and misses gave me pause. It wasn't the ideal debut, but it'd take more than one wonky night to drive me away. In fact, it would probably take a whole string of busts, police intervention, and a plague of locusts to shut me out.

As it turned out, I had absolutely nothing to fear. Though the show itself started on familiar footing with lots of piano improv, Jon just sounded better than those few weeks before. Additionally, he exuded bonhomie, despite also downing coffee like, well, Guinness. Thus, he giggled at himself for sneaking in the Space Odyssey theme, borrowed from the "Ashes to Ashes" mold for "Over Our Heads," inserted a Supertramp-like (can I even name two Supertramp songs?!) piano breakdown on the keys-and-harmonica-based "Roll with You," and rung in the summer with "O Christmas Tree" on solo electric guitar.

He took a couple of requests for his own tunes, and just as "Walking Through Walls" got under way with that huge helping of drums, it hit me that the new digs were going to work out after all. Again, he sounded amazing and dug in doggedly, and you could feel it through the whole room.

The next instrumental round-robin encompassed "Here We Go," preceded by what sounded like an old standard; the bass-and-harmonica-driven "That's Just What You Are," which Jon also adorned with some falsetto trills toward the end; and "irrational rocking" in the form of his own "Get Over Yourself."

There was definitely a mischievous air to the show, further amplified when Jon took a couple of animal-shaped items off the celeste and wound them up. Not just cute toys or, perhaps, beloved companions, they were music boxes that spun to the tune of "On Top of the World," leading Jon to take it up on piano and vocoder for a line or two. This, in turn, triggered a long deconstruction of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," which Jon simultaneously reveled in ("that was fun") and reprimanded himself for ("oh no, it's me!") after the workout. The piano remained the focus for much of the rest of the set, as Jon dispatched three more of his own songs at the bench.

For the near-finale, he requested a familiar element (a sing-along), but in a manner I hadn't seen at the old place. He explained that at the Coronet, they could, ironically, do things that made the room feel more intimate than they ever achieved at the old spot. And to illustrate his point, he picked up an acoustic guitar, perched on a monitor at the front of the stage, and went completely unplugged, letting us fill in the melodies, harmonies, and all the magical bits of a couple of Beatles songs. The vocal fills were indeed gorgeous on "Here, There and Everywhere," and though less subtle, "I'll Be Back" was no slouch either. I was already feeling the love much earlier in the show, but this double play sealed it. Extending our reverie, Jon closed out with "random harmonium" before the break.

The second set opened with a couple of Jon's numbers, including my suggestion for "Nothing Between Us," this time accompanied by the music boxes. Requests for Jon's work had been strong all night, but "Strings That Tie to You" marked the last of his originals we'd hear for the evening.

The first two covers of the set couldn't be more divergent in style, from the short, bemused take on "Sgt. Pepper's" to the jeremiad known as "You Don't Know What Love Is." We tried our hardest to harness the power of our voices once again for "Good Vibrations," but it paled (though still delighted) in comparison to the Beatles rock block earlier that evening.

Jon delivered his own harangue on Guns 'n' Roses when the request for "Welcome to the Jungle" popped up, though he gave it quick whirl on the banjo anyway. Despite what sounded like a protest of doing "a lot of fucking Beatles tonight," he obliged the "Sexy Sadie" request as well.

I think it was around this point that Jon called out a bunch of familiar names, most of whom weren't around, but one turned up: Sebastian Steinberg. They recruited a young, lanky drummer from the audience and tore into a selection of Hendrix songs, even if Jon skimmed over some of the lyrics to "Wind Cries Mary." A different drummer from the audience beat Tom Biller (I think) to the stage for the T. Rex tune, but no substitutions would be allowed for the next guest: Grant-Lee Phillips, who clambered up midsong to lend it a little piano and backing vocals.

As soon as he got the chance, Jon removed the guitar from his frame and draped it over Grant's shoulders, while he moved back to the drums and sort of commanded Grant to come up with something. I'm not sure if Grant's next move was an original song or a cover, but it was a jangly tune that sounded great.

The next act was slightly more theatrical, as all eyes went to the back of the room, we craned our necks, and the spotlight followed: Benmont Tench had arrived, after Jon had inquired several times. Exhibiting that semi-swagger that's become his norm lately, Benmont took over the mic for a bluesy turn before planting himself at the piano for his better-known abilities. The floor was all his, as even the performers onstage settled into the background to listen in. Following Benmont's showcase, the four-piece carried off "Benny and the Jets," then brought Sean Watkins in to join them.

For this portion of the evening, Jon made some adjustments, ensuring everyone had an acoustic guitar and setting up the old-fashioned microphone for them to gather around. This was, in a way, an extension of the acoustic set we heard earlier. Jon kicked it off with "Positively 4th Street," then invited Sean to take up "Write Myself a Letter," complete with a solo opportunity for each musician.

As requests rolled in, the woman who asked for "'Train Bound for Glory' into 'Monster Mash'" may not have lucked out if Benmont hadn't picked up on it. However, the execution fell to Grant, and I'm going to have to leave it at that because I can't hope to describe it, except to say it was hilarious and spot-on.

The room had fully dispensed of reverence now, so while "Mother's Little Helper" was pretty traditional, "Suspicious Minds" may have gone overboard in that direction, with Grant aping Elvis's delivery to a T--then carrying over the same vocal style to "Night Moves," which sent both Jon and Benmont into spasms of laughter mixed with groans of horror. Benmont composed himself enough to guide them over to "Crimson and Clover," which Jon and Grant welcomed with various techniques for re-creating that wobbling, doppler-esque effect for the backing vocals (fanning the air, thumping their chests, pinching their throats, for example).

The next tune might've been Bowie's "Andy Warhol," but don't quote me on that. I'm, however, confident in reporting the rest of the set, which comprised all '80s synth pop. The Men Without Hats/Dexy's Midnight Runners medley was a mere appetizer as they delved into Human League with vocals provided by Mike, Largo's favorite enforcer, switching off with all the girls in the room, as the song required. (Also, I got a secret thrill from remembering that I requested it some months ago). The final song, Jon admitted, was "cheating," but that didn't stop anyone from joining in anyway.

I had halfway prepared a carefully worded assessment of the room's progress, but no need--it's on! The good folks on La Cienega have done their homework and created yet another magical venue. To borrow a certain phrase we've been hearing a lot of lately, this is a change we can believe in.

Set 1
--noodling/Thus Spake Zarathustra/more noodling
--Over Our Heads
--I'm on a Roll with You
--O Christmas Tree
--Knock Yourself Out
--Walking Through Walls
--Here We Go
--That's Just What You Are
--Get Over Yourself
--On Top of the World/Somewhere Over the Rainbow
--Ruin My Day
--Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way
--Stop the World
--Here There and Everywhere
--I'll Be Back
--"random harmonium"

Set 2
--Dead to the World
--Nothing Between Us
--You Don't Know What Love Is
--Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
--Strings That Tie to You
--Good Vibrations
--Welcome to the Jungle
--Sexy Sadie

with Sebastian Steinberg and Noah from the audience
--Happy Birthday
--Foxy Lady
--The Wind Cries Mary

with Grant-Lee Phillips, Sebastian Steinberg, and John from the audience
--Telegram Sam

with Grant-Lee Phillips and Sebastian Steinberg
--? [Grant]

with Benmont Tench, Grant-Lee Phillips, and Sebastian Steinberg
--?? [Benmont]
--Benmont piano extravaganza
--Benny and the Jets [Grant]

with Sean Watkins, Benmont Tench, Grant-Lee Phillips, and Sebastian Steinberg
--Positively 4th Street
--Write Myself a Letter [Sean]
--This Train Is Bound for Glory/Monster Mash
--Mother's Little Helper/Suspicious Minds/Night Moves [Benmont/Grant/Grant]
--Crimson and Clover [Benmont]
--?? [Grant]
--Safety Dance/Come On Eileen [Grant]
--Don't You Want Me [Mike + audience]
--Always Something There to Remind Me [Jon + audience]

See also:
» no one will be a stranger
» i remember standing by the wall
» i'm younger than that now