Thursday, February 12, 2009

everything's a memory

Thanks to the rain, the night's crowd couldn't match the generous numbers we saw in January, but a good-sized audience grabbed their umbrellas, pulled on their wellies, and ventured out to kick off the weekend with--who else?--Jon Brion at Largo.

Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, February 6, 2009: An uncommon occurrence in L.A., the rain moved Flanny and Jon--transplants both--to comment on the weather. But if you were expecting more familiar topics, you would've been happy to hear Flanny's barb about Bush, as well as an aside over Jon's jacket. Plus ça change...

Under the soggy skies, the Coronet felt more than ever like a refuge, and a good portion of Jon's set tonight might've been the sonic equivalent of a thick robe, fluffy slippers, and a hot toddy--to a certain extent. Namely, tonight he favored his originals, interspersed with a handful of covers.

But of course, these familiar tracks held some twists and embellishments that I hadn't heard before and will likely never hear again in exactly the same form. For example, "Roll with You" rode out on a charming "la la la" outro, the guitar roared to life in "Happy with You," and "Trouble" levitated to a gorgeous, vociferous piano bridge. In between, nearly every song included some subtly different phrasings that reminded you why you come back again and again. We even heard a new tune, an upbeat number paced along the lines of "Knock Yourself Out," complete with a sweet, fun bridge and a wry ending.

Along the way, the covers provided comic relief. Jon granted the "For No One" request, but only if we supplied the French horn solo. Our second pass was slightly more respectable, but frankly, the less said about it, the better. (Full disclosure: I was absolutely useless, as it's one of the few Beatles songs I barely know.)

Jon flat out announced that "no amount of drugs or military coercion" would make him come around to "Radio Ga Ga," as suggested by an audience member; instead, he used it as a springboard to "Play the Game." Several audience members asked for "Happy Birthday" before Jon relented and guided the song through all the styles that come so easily to him: Vince Guaraldi, classical, then finally the absurd, as he turned up the vocoder and mashed it up with "Funky Town." Fortunately, he brought it home with "More Than This"--and I went ga-ga.

Jon closed the set with a Les Paul-style take on the Pixies (incorporating "Jesse's Girl," per usual) and his own "You Made the Girl." Though it's not my favorite song, the latter's psychedelic guitar treatment was a pleasant surprise this time. Even better, it didn't signal the actual end of the night, as Jon returned to the stage with the caveat that he needed to play something upbeat and without a guitar solo.

We finally redeemed our subpar requests from earlier in the evening, thanks to two separate callouts: the first for "Blitzkrieg Bop," the second urging Jon toward the vibes. He embraced the challenge--and carried it off beautifully, maybe to a greater extent than expected. Jon triumphantly quipped that the vibes never enjoyed a punk phase and pondered other similarly deprived forms. To cut to the chase, imagine the scene: Jon at the edge of the stage, acting out punk tap dancing. (Fear not, Savion Glover.)

Extending the punk motif, Jon refashioned the Dick Van Dyke theme on an acoustic 12-string after some helpful prodding from the audience. For the finale, though, he flipped the premise upside down, taking the Buzzcocks' "You Say You Don't Love Me" and fashioning a lush, mellifluous one-man symphony.

--Someone Else's Problem Now
--Eternal Sunshine theme
--Roll with You
--Happy with You
--Why Do You Do This to Yourself
--For No One
--Over Our Heads
--But Beautiful
--Strings That Tie to You
--Further On
--Please Stay Away from Me
--new song
--Play the Game
--Happy Birthday/Funky Town/More Than This
--You Made the Girl

--Blitzkrieg Bop
--Dick Van Dyke theme
--You Say You Don't Love Me

See also:
» million dollar bash

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