Thursday, July 23, 2009

lost inside adorable illusion

You know the drill by now: If I'm at Largo on a Thursday (or a Saturday--heck, or a Sunday), I'm also going to be there on Friday for Jon Brion's gig. You can set your clock by it.

Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, July 17, 2009: First things first: Jon didn't wear exactly the same outfit on Friday as he had on Thursday. In fact, we'd see a costume change before the end of the night, but I'll get to that eventually.

Jon started off with what he ironically deemed a "whiz-bang opener," but following that, he launched into a block of originals, including what sounded like a new song on electric guitar. Along the way, he piled the percussion on "Happy with You," and made liberal use of the whammy bar for "Girl I Knew." "Here We Go," though, was the treasure; Jon changed up the bridge, the additional notes subtly recasting the song and nudging it off its waltz-time foundation.

I've attempted to describe Jon's audio/video forays in earlier posts, but I suspect my accounts have raised more questions than they've answered. This time, I can be clear: He owned it tonight, layering footage of a Latin band, sprinkling in video of a sax player, and working his own magic to emerge with--ta da!--"More Than This." Let the swooning commence.

The requests commenced with a somewhat obscure Aztec Camera track, but it took a while before Jon figured out what else he wanted to tackle. The mashup that ensued got off to an inauspicious start with a Cat Stevens tune, but I don't think anyone expected Jon to land on "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" not once but twice--that second time under the cloak of "Strawberry Fields."

In an unusual move--and one he apologized for--Jon wanted to make up for the previous week's rendition of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." I don't know what the earlier performance entailed, but this night, it required a music stand, lyrics sheets, and the vibes. No do-overs were needed this time.

Then it was back to the videotape. Essentially, in support of footage of an old Creole fiddle player, Jon cued up a performance of Ravi Shankar and added some accents, such as echo and diffusion effects, as well as his own instrumentation. In other words, it was his one-man band conceit, further amplified. Jon would also splice in video of a guitar lesson and '50s-era singers before the song, and the main set, ended.

I was under the impression that Jon no longer performed encores, but I was wrong--and glad for it. When Jon asked if "Michel" was still around, Evonne and I gaped. Yes, "Michel" was Michel Gondry, the film director, former rock drummer, and Jon's occasional collaborator. It was Evonne's first time seeing Michel Gondry at Largo and only my second time, but neither of us would've complained if it had been the hundredth occasion.

Jon prompted Michel to start it up, and I swear the first beat he threw out was the groove from Doves' "Compulsion"--which, in turn, always reminds me of Blondie's "Rapture." Jon accompanied him on guitar and eventually took up the vocals. They first landed on "White Lines," but Jon wisely chose not to mimic the rap, and I loved hearing "Heart of Glass," even with Jon's made-up lyrics replacing the forgotten words. By now, Jon had taken the lead, with Michel not missing a beat (no pun intended) and riding through a variety of styles before the end of the set.

But we had yet to reach the end of the night. In the Little Room, we filled the front row, taking the equivalents of tables 21 and 40 (sorry, Evonne and Daniella) on Fairfax. Jon wasted no time in asking Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings to join him. The three of them formed something like a songwriters' circle; it could've been our proximity, but the intimacy was unmatched, and it was amazing to watch their silent communication so close up.

Gillian confessed that she'd seen less of Jon's show than she wanted, but Jon urged her to do whatever she felt like. Gill's warning of a "wicked old-timey" selection didn't deter Jon, and he accompanied them on the tragic tale.

For the most part, Gillian and David helmed this set, with Gillian assuming the duties for the first half, David for the conclusion, and Jon stepping up for one song in between. Jon's familiarity with Gillian and David's songs was evident, as he added harmonies and even offered a couple of suggestions. They also urged Jon to the piano when Largo's other favorite piano player didn't materialize. Along the same lines, it was great to hear Gillian supplying harmonies to "My Baby Left Me."

I got in a request for Robyn Hitchcock, despite David and Gillian's trepidation over the high notes. An audience member using a silly voice asked for the last song of the night, "Sweet Tooth," thus marking the end of David and Gillian's July residency. I doubt that this will be the last we see of them; I just hope they return soon.

Set 1
--Happy with You
--Over Our Heads
--new song?
--Why Do You Do This to Yourself
--Girl I Knew
--Punch Drunk theme/Here We Go
--More Than This
--Walk Out to Winter
--Autumn Leaves (?)
--It's a Wild World/Wake Me Up Before You Go Go/I'm Free/Waterloo Sunset/Wake Me Up Before You Go Go
--Lock My Heart and Throw Away the Key (?)
--Me, Myself, and I
--Shine On You Crazy Diamond

with Michel Gondry

--White Lines/Heart of Glass/Funkytown/Miss You

Set 2
with David Rawlings and Gillian Welch
--I'm Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail
--It's Too Easy
--Throw Me a Rope
--My Baby Left Me
--Luminous Rose
--30 Days
--Sweet Tooth

See also:
» i've been traveling near and far
» you don't know the meaning of the blues

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