In my previous post, I neglected to mention one other favorite aspect of the season: Largo's year-end shows. Not that I ever need much coercion to go to Largo, but mention Christmas and any of my favored performers, and I'm there, with (sleigh) bells on.
Watkins Family Hour, Largo at the Coronet, December 11, 2008: And to emphasize the spirit of the season, the Largo crew decorated the stage with rows of lights and even a little tree. They sure looked pretty against the red velvet curtains.
I use the word "family" a lot when describing the Largo experience, but Sean and Sara Watkins are the real thing, putting the "kin" in "kindred." But the family doesn't stop with the two of them; instead, it also encompassed their friends, many of whom contributed to this relatively lengthy show.
We had the magician Derek Hughes, who turned in a much more palatable opening act than he did the only other time I've seen him. For laughs, we welcomed the comedian Dave "Gruber" Allen, even though his act ran hot and cold. During his main segment, he alluded to ruining the show; though I wouldn't go that far, I have to admit I found him hard to follow at times.
We had stars of stage and screen: Minnie Driver joined in for a traditional Christmas song, and John C. Reilly took the reigns for a good four or five titles, ranging from the Louvin Brothers to the Everly Brothers, as well as a version of the letter to Santa he read as part of Aimee Mann's inaugural Christmas show two years ago.
And finally, we had the musicians--oh so many musicians. Benmont Tench, Sebastian Steinberg, and Don Heffington [Editor's note: Thanks for the correction, Tom!] filled out the house band, then several other guests stepped in and out of the lineup. All together, they handled original material, including songs from Sara's upcoming solo album; contemporary covers, such as Elliott Smith's "A Question Mark"; and older favorites, such as John Hartford's "Long Hot Summer Days."
Luke Bolla featured prominently on a handful of tracks, including a fiddle duo with Sara, while Glen Phillips played two of my favorite numbers of the night. The first was a gorgeous, sweeping song from WPA, the name of an upcoming project comprising much of the talent onstage that night; I didn't catch the title, but it had a confidence and a scope that begged to be played on the radio. Then in an homage to the holidays, Glen presented a season favorite: "A Lonely Jew on Christmas," courtesy of South Park.
Jackson Browne was billed as the top guest of the night, but the real treat may have been David Rawlings, who showed up at the same time. Alongside John C. Reilly, they started off with "Let It Be Me," then went into a few more selections, including what Jackson Browne called Dylan's only Christmas song ("Desolation Row").
Performers at Largo often joke about professionalism and pacing, or their lack thereof; this is not the place to go if you want to see a finely tuned, strictly scripted show. Then again, that's the way we like it. That said, however, some of the guests looked more at home than others. I don't think much of the audience was begging Minnie Driver to return, for example, though her voice was quite lovely, and John C. Reilly had a way of making every song introduction sound like it was a setup to a joke, even when it wasn't.
I'm no Scrooge, though. The show was a delight to the end, when we all teamed up to sing "Joy to the World." I had to bail after the first verse, but the voices around me stayed strong for three verses more. Can you say the same of your family?
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