Wednesday, August 26, 2009

above you and beyond me too

At a club known for its residencies and regulars, with a rich roster of celebrated singer/songwriters, Neil Finn qualifies as something special at Largo. Maybe it's the incredible music he's made over the years; maybe it's his ability to charm and win over everyone within earshot; maybe it's the relative rarity of his visits. Whatever the case, any show with Neil at Largo is one for the books, and a three-night (and more) semi-secret engagement is even more monumental.

Neil Finn, Largo at the Coronet, August 16-18, 2009: Earlier this summer, Jason Jones of the Daily Show introduced the concept of aged news:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
End Times
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

Anyway, if you don't mind that this post comes a full week after the shows or that the activities--not to mention even more "surprise" appearances I couldn't attend--have already been well documented on the Internet, enjoy this aged blog!

Though Crowded House came through the United States on two tours in the last couple of years, I failed to catch a single show--for the first time in nearly 20 years. Both runs were unfortunately timed; I was, um, on the road for other bands. In addition, the first foray hit all the venues I hate. In other words, I was really looking forward to Neil's shows at Largo.

Technically, the first show of this three-night stand was a 7 Worlds benefit--I believe the fifth such gathering for this Oxfam-affiliated project that happens to bring together some of my favorite musicians. I was definitely one of those people who ate up all the details of this latest 7 Worlds collaboration when the artists and their families first met up last December. In the interim, I've downloaded the shows, watched the YouTube videos, and generally daydreamed about seeing them for myself.

Granted, the group sharing that "favorite" title was not present, but the substitutions--local and otherwise--helped assuage those pangs. Monday and Tuesday's gigs were billed as Neil solo, but Elroy Finn and Jon Brion would back Neil on all three outings. Meanwhile, Lisa Germano sat in twice, while Bic Runga and KT Tunstall clocked one appearance each. Bic, in fact, nabbed the title of the most miles traveled in the least amount of time, navigating a round trip between New Zealand and Los Angeles in a mere three days. Oh, and Mark Hart dropped in for the last song of the last night.

It'd be foolhardy to claim that any lineup short of the blockbuster bill convened in New Zealand last December could re-create that same buzz and excitement eight months on and an ocean away, but this assemblage succeeded in conveying their spirit and the laid-back give and take. If there were any blemish on Sunday night's performance, it might've been the dearth of guitar picks, as the players seemed to swap between exactly two picks the whole night. However, that was not the point. Rather, this would be the first time many of us heard for ourselves the songs played live; additionally, we'd help a worthy cause (Oxfam) and, last but not least, welcome Neil Finn back to Largo.

In case anyone was worried, both Flanagan and Neil assured us from the stage that Neil approved of the new Largo and all its ensuing changes. My guess is he wasn't alone; though neither Elroy nor KT (and maybe Lisa?) had visited before, they showed few signs of nerves. Elroy stepped up to sing his own "The Cobbler," and Lisa jumped between violin, piano, percussion, and vocals. In between, she exchanged many hugs with her follow players--especially with KT.

Speaking of KT, she may have stolen the show. Her energy and the chemistry she shared with the other musicians are impossible to quantify, but her derring-do was evident. The most bravura moment of the night may have come during the encore when she not only tried a new song (about Margaret Trudeau), but navigated a chain of technical difficulties before she hit her stride. This trial by fire, in fact, transformed the song from the avant-garde number she initially promised into a punk blast.

This blog wouldn't be this blog if I didn't mention Jon Brion's roles. At a show where everyone qualified as a jack-of-all-trades, Jon mainly assumed the stance of a background player and maybe equipment manager (all the gear appeared to be his), but I can cite a few standout moments. There was "All Comedians Suffer," when he broke a string on his guitar, but proceeded to play with abandon--twisting the whammy bar, producing all sorts of unimaginable sounds--anyway. And who could forget the cover medley toward the end of the gig, where his contribution of Spinal Tap's "Gimme Some Money" helped guide Neil from "Jean Genie" to "Eight Miles High" and eventually to "Sunny Afternoon"?

Finally, there was the, er, finale of Lisa's lovely "From a Shell." Everyone joined in, but Jon, Elroy, and KT yielded an atypical instrument of choice: Red Stripe bottles. I want to say Elroy started it, but Jon soon took the reins, arranging and directing the artists in between swigs of beer. Skoal!

The single element tying together the whole night was--no shit--Neil Finn himself. I can't do justice to Neil's legacy or his draw; the droves of longtime (and I mean longtime) fans should be evidence enough. But even if you're new to Neil's show, his appeal should be clear. And if it isn't, the respect he commands among his fellow musicians should jump out. He's one of the most easy-going leaders I've ever seen, yet he inspires the artists around him to stretch themselves and to take a risk.

Neil led this charge, introducing many of those elements of chance into the show, such as trying out the vocoder, playing instruments he doesn't usually man (bass on "Reptile"), encouraging the artists to step up (urging "more" piano from Jon on "Girl Make Your Own Mind Up"), or letting them shine on their own (KT and Bic on "Black Silk Ribbon"), not to mention placing a couple of long-distance phone calls: one to wife Sharon, and one to Sebastian Steinberg. I hope our appreciation came through more clearly than the songs themselves.

This is all window dressing, though. Neil's talent is what's kept us coming back all these years, and it was on fine display. That voice, the songs, those bridges (!) remain as appealing as ever.

Neil Finn, Largo, August 18, 2009
The setlist for Aug. 18, 2009
For his two "solo" shows, Neil favored the more obscure tracks from the catalog. I would've loved to hear, for example, "Distant Sun," just because I know Jon can go to town on it--and because I'll take any excuse to hear Neil raise high the roof beams--but that was not to be. However, it's hard to complain about any gig where Neil plays "Faster than Light" or "I Feel Possessed."

For my own selfish purposes, I was delighted to see Jon break out on "One Step Ahead," which he imbued with both sleigh bells and ragtime piano. Also, they worked up "Private Universe" once more, just as they had on Friday, complete with video, Neil's drum loop, and Elroy's live accompaniment. Finally, Jon's harmonium was a lovely and unusual touch on many of the songs.

Jon did not have a monopoly on unusual instruments, however. Neil succumbed to the MicroKorg, and with minimal instructions, he presented "Billie Jean" and another improvised piece. Lisa would turn out to be the mistress of the MicroKorg, effortlessly churning out a thumping beat. As Jon acknowledged, she proved to be the funkiest of the bunch.

Neil forgot the words to a few songs, most notably on "Sinner," which he had to try three times. He looked inconsolably perturbed by the lapse, but I don't think anyone held it against him. If there was a silver lining to these tiny missteps, it'd have to be the audience's immediate and vocal uptake, filling in the words that escaped Neil. It was an impressive display, I gotta tell you.

If I had to choose one shining moment from this three-night engagement, I wouldn't hesitate to name "Something So Strong" as the revelation. Neil explained we were to hear what the song sounded like before Mitchell Froom got involved. And despite his warning/apology to Jon that this would be a surprise entry (Jon: "You're a mean man"), they carried it off beautifully. Neil's demo was indeed a far cry from the radio hit that dominated the airwaves in the summer of 1987, leaning in a folksier direction, but its classic form couldn't be obscured. I'd love to hear that again. And again.

It only took 14 months to bring Neil to Largo at the Coronet, but I hope he knows he has a new home in Los Angeles--and it's not so different from the old one.

See also:
» i've got it bad
» wherever there is comfort, there is pain

Friday, August 21, 2009

i've got it bad

Spending two consecutive weekends at Largo--much less almost a full week in Los Angeles--in the same month that I'm supposed to be packing boxes and moving into a new apartment is probably not the most advisable course of action. However, I never gave it a second thought, and it all started, of course, with Jon Brion's Friday night show.

Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, August 14, 2009: Even if you didn't know that a very special guest was slated to join Jon's gig tonight, you might've started putting two and two together at the sight of the unusually large, buzzing crowd, when Jon promised to stay in the "upper to midtempo" range, or later in the evening, when the request process started breaking down. But before the audience could glimpse upon their favorite singer, they'd have to take in Jon's set first. (I hope they know how lucky they are.)

Red Bull in hand, Jon sat down at the piano and launched into his originals, including a piano-and-harmonica-laden "Roll With You," as well as the first song that came to my mind when he vowed to keep the show moving along: "That's Just What You Are." What I presume to be a new song fell squarely into the power pop camp, with a chiming guitar solo that would be ringing out of every bar and car radio if there were any justice in the world.

In my experience, any night Jon plays "Moon River" is a good one, even if this evening's rendition was slightly marred by the barrage of requests (some quite questionable) still hurtling toward the stage after he began the song. Jon good-naturedly commented on it, but that may have been lost on the shouters. The din eventually settled down, allowing us some quality time with this classic, which swelled with Jon's turn toward the Chamberlin and trailed off in a jazzy, fractured trickle of piano. Sigh.

Jon's video screens appear to be more than a passing fad, and for his first visual venture of the gig, he partnered Leonard Bernstein with Leon Theremin for a suspenseful, inscrutable build, upon which he added his own piano and MicroKORG touches to emerge with--ta da!--"Meaningless." Keener ears may be able to pick up on discrete elements of this multidimension mashup; I found the orchestra harder to discern, but the theremin came through loud and clear in all the right places. In addition, Jon's vocals suggested an eerie calm, unlike the exuberant iteration on the studio version, and they sounded great against the full-bodied accompaniment of his 2D collaborators.

Favoring the epic scale, Jon set off on "Someone to Watch Over Me" in all its grandiloquent glory, though this time with a bluesy tinge. And then he called on the guest of honor.

I'll say more about Neil Finn in an upcoming post, but for now, all you need to know is that any time Neil shows up at Largo, it's an event. The fact that he had just flown in from London about three hours prior only upped his cred in our eyes--as if he needed anyone's approval.

Neil and Jon kicked off with a couple of older Crowded House numbers, Neil strumming and Jon adding piano, celeste, and especially Chamberlin to the classics. But rather than play it safe, Neil (with Jon's help) created a drum loop of a "jungle" beat for the next song. As the song developed, Jon moved over to the vibes, then the Chamberlin, and from that point on, all other expectations fell by the wayside.

Neil may have instigated this experiment, but it mushroomed into the Manhattan Project in Jon's hands. To Neil's credit, "Private Universe" is a perfect candidate for Jon's newest techniques, as its free-form ending allows for all manner of deviations. And for all that Jon did with this song, there's no doubt he merely scratched the surface of its potential.

Our little corner of the room squealed in delight when Nels Cline -- via video -- joined in (according to reports, the footage had been shot after Jon and Nels's gig the week prior) and Jon isolated a burst of guitar to fill out the song. The virtual ranks would soon swell with the addition of Eric Clapton, John Entwistle, Louis Bellson, and an old-time four-piece quartet.

At one point, Neil himself would stop playing, transfixed by the spectacle and admitting that he just wanted to watch. While he could easily blame the jet lag for his astonishment, Neil contributed a bit of "Those Were the Days" over the mix, and though perhaps surprised, he hardly seem fazed by Jon's latest exploits.

Jon returned by himself for the encore, though Neil could be seen hanging in the shadows. I reckon the Red Bull from the top of the evening kicked in around this point, as Jon pummeled the drums and set the scene for "Tomorrow Never Knows." Talk about a perfect candidate--is there any song from the rock era more synonymous with experimentation?

The biggest highlights of this opus managed to show off two aspects of the video component. There's the musical element, best exemplified by the footage of Maria Callas, which matched up beautifully with the song's rising bedlam. Then there's the visual statement (and let's face it--music and video have gone together long before MTV went on the air), demonstrated on this occasion by Jon superimposing a clip of a ballerina over Nels's movements, in turn juxtaposed with a Bollywood dance routine. It might be overkill to report that Eric Clapton, the aforementioned singing group, Leonard Bernstein, Ravi Shankar, and Iron Butterfly clocked in as well, or that I think Jon pulled off a left-speaker/right-speaker separation during the course of the tune. File that one away.

We dashed off to the Little Room for the second set, which commenced with Jon on the piano for some Billie Holiday. Business as usual, right? Of course not! Neil Finn is in the motherfucking house, for pete's sake!

I could (and probably will) break down each song they performed together, but I need to mention this first: As far as I'm concerned, there are few artists who are warmer and more open than Neil. I can't approximate Neil's exchanges with Jon or the audience, except to say that he made this very small room feel ever more intimate, even for this longtime fan. (That could also be the wine and our front-row seats talking.)

Per Neil's suggestion, they delved into Carole King's greatest hits. Neil recalled that they tried it last time he was in town, but my records show we last heard these tracks during the previous visit. I'm not complaining--I've been requesting Carole King at Jon's shows for the last six months, and I'm grateful to Neil for taking up the slack. I'm also grateful to at least a couple of audience members for remembering the words and to everyone else who sang along.

Neil shared his abridged version of New Zealand's history, something along the lines of Sir Edmund Hilary climbing Everest to Lorraine Downes winning Miss Universe to Flight of the Conchords. In between, he told us of his personal track record with a local talent show, which he won on his third outing. In storytellers mode, he played the song he lost to ("Quando Quando") and the one he lost with ("Coming into Los Angeles"). However, I can't for the life of me recall what ditty finally nabbed him the title. Can anyone help with that detail? Though no one in the room claimed to know "Quando Quando," that didn't stop Jon from pouring some awesome piano over it.

Neil asked for requests, but demurred on "Running Up That Hill." No worries--it fell squarely into Jon's territory, and he obliged. Neil took the final two selections: the first tipping a hat to Hunters and Collectors, the second to his father. Though the night was drawing to a close, Finn Fest 2009 was only beginning.

Set 1
--Roll with You
--Over Our Heads
--That's Just What You Are
--new song?
--Please Stay Away from Me
--Moon River
--Someone to Watch Over Me
--Fall at Your Feet *
--Into Temptation *
--Private Universe *

--Tomorrow Never Knows

Set 2
--I've Got It Bad (And It Ain't Good)
--Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow *
--You've Got a Friend *
--It's Too Late *
--Coming into Los Angeles *
--Quando Quando *
--Running Up That Hill * [vox = Jon]
--Throw Your Arms Around Me *
--I Can't Get Started *

* = with Neil Finn

See also:
» i can teach you, but i have to charge
» manifestation of desire
» wherever there is comfort, there is pain

Friday, August 14, 2009

manifestation of desire

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since the last Nels Cline/Jon Brion show at Largo. In between, Nels hasn’t exactly been a stranger, paying at least a couple of visits to the Coronet (one of which I sadly missed), but as an avid fan of this series, I love having them back.

Nels Cline and Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, August 8, 2009: The show opened with a short greeting from Jon, followed by an entreaty to Nels to speak. With that, for the first time, Nels presented their plan--or at least their "manifestation of desire"--for the evening. "We would like this to be the most psychedelic night in West Hollywood in the last 30 years," he said.

Granted, just because Nels and Jon have committed to an idea doesn't mean it's any easier to describe what they do. Consider the following, then, a rough outline of the night. This is truly the kind of show you have to see for yourself.

Song 1: One of the things you have to know about these Nels/Jon sessions is that there is no premeditation whatsoever. They don’t discuss any of this; they just get out there and play whatever the hell they feel like. Thus, you could regard the first song of the night as their warm-up. It just so happens, though, that they do it in front of the audience.

Historically, they’ve been in no hurry to take the night’s temperature, and this evening wasn’t so different except they managed to rein it in at a relatively brief 30 minutes. I counted five movements to this piece, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who claimed more or fewer. If I had to break down this piece to its most basic elements, I'd say it started with a brooding build-up, morphed into a rocking, robotic segment, bloomed into a '70s-style epic, went all spacey and Eastern-sounding, then finished on equal parts menace and melody.

Along the way, we beheld several delightful sights and feats, such as Nels playing drums (always a blast), as well as a small tulip-shaped guitar, though I'll leave it to the gearheads to identify the latter. Nels also switched between all his customary accoutrements, such as the spring, the megamouth, the thingamagoop, and the Kaoss pad.

Jon, of course, was all over the map as well, and tried out a couple of things I hadn't seen before. In one segment, he beat against the piano strings with the vocoder, creating an industrial sound effect. For another, he taped himself using a small handheld recorder, then played it back through the vocoder, shaking it along the way for even more sonic dissonance.

Ordinarily, their dual guitar attack would stack up as my favorite portion of the tune, and they didn't hold back tonight. Jon even broke a guitar string as he accompanied Nels's bluesy notes with wails and spasms of his own. But I think I preferred the coda, with Nels on drums and Jon buzzing away on guitar. I could easily see that fitting right in on one of Nels's records, even if he wasn't manning his usual post.

Song 2: I'm not sure whether a chronological chronicle of events would help illuminate this song, so I'll try to stick to the highlights. This exercise may have been most notable for Jon's use of the video mixers and Nels' immersion in it--marking the first time I've seen anyone other than Jon join the video guests. Jon started with footage of Leonard Bernstein leading an orchestral performance of Charles E. Ives' "The Unanswered Question," mixed in with video of Ravi Shankar and Sonny Rollins. Before this tune drew to an end, we would also seem cameos by Louis Bellson, Nina Simone, and Maria Callas. Whether any of them surfaced in the mix, however, is open to debate.

I have no problems pinpointing two of the peaks of the performance. The first had to be when both Nels and Jon threw on their guitar straps and hit some huge, resounding notes, sounding not unlike the Clash at their most rousing and anthemic. At the risk of sounding reductive, that passage alone was worth the price of admission.

But in addition, we were witness to Nels accompanying Sonny Rollins to the best of his ability, as well as breaking a string on another passage. Jon, however, may take the cake for the move of the night. Not content to twist and turn his whammy bar in directions it probably shouldn't have gone, even suspending the big hollow body by that metallic sliver, he at one point threw down the guitar altogether and dove at his pedals. For several minutes, he -- stop me if you think you've heard this one before -- lay supine, slapping at his pedals with abandon.

Song 3: Every Nels/Jon show has at least one contrary number, a song you wouldn't expect of them and they may not have guessed at themselves. Tonight, each picked up an oversize acoustic guitar and plucked out some of the prettiest notes you can hope to hear. I thought I heard a slight nod to Billie Holiday, but I can't be sure. Certainly, however, it served as a delicious palate cleanser to a heady evening.

Song 4: Nels and Jon returned for their encore, leading Jon to ask--rhetorically, I think--"What's left?" I guess that depends on what you believe has already elapsed.

Their answer came in a cold, electronically inclined dystopian composition. Nels kicked it off by creating a drone and a suggestion of heavy machinery at work. He would also bring in the megamouth, the thingamagoop, and a new contraption--some kind of revolving lampshade?--I'd never seen before. Jon, meanwhile, fired up his analog synth to create a background of blips and beeps.

That psychedelia they requested at the start of the evening? I wouldn't say they fulfilled that ambition, but I suspect they hit upon several unanticipated milestones along the way. Let's do it again!

The Jon Brion/Nels Cline Largo series:
» i like jon brion. a lot. (part 1)
» i'll be back again
» three-god night
» and when you touch down
» just keep counting the stars
» the men stood straight and strong
» round midnight
» singin' songs for pimps with tailors

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

no wonder i wonder

It was a luxury and a treat to see two Jon Brion shows (too bad we didn't get the third gig) in the Bay Area just a few weeks ago, but for follow-up fixes, you gotta go to the action--at Largo, of course.

Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, August 7, 2009: At this point, it'd be disingenuous to claim that I just happened upon all these Jon Brion shows in the last few weeks. Trust me, it's no coincidence, but some events are more fortunately timed than others.

After an extended run through what sounded like at least half a dozen ideas, Jon opened with “Foolin’ Myself” and followed this “psychological warm-up” with a call for requests. They came in, all right, and Jon tucked away a couple of them for later use, but also asked for a dumb metal song to lubricate the mindgrapes. (Note: He didn’t mention mindgrapes.)

I think it was “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (metal was never my thing) that helped limber up his fingers, as he led it through a coterie of styles: classical, ragtime, and more. The aforementioned requests kicked in.

It doesn’t hurt that I love “More Than This” so much, but the fact that Jon continues to mix it up, even in relatively subtle ways, helps keep the song among the highlights of any given performance. Tonight, Jon made it a little bit folk, a little bit electronic with varying measures of piano, harmonica, and synthesizer sounds. He also changed some of the vocal inflections; as someone who (1) knows all the words to this tune, and (2) possesses no musical talent at all, I have to say that these subtle improvisations can sometimes be more revelatory than the reworked arrangements.

From here, Jon headed into a block of originals, starting with the always entrancing “Here We Go.” He grabbed an acoustic 12-string for “Love of My Life So Far,” decked it out with an intricate bridge, and built the loops for “Happy with You.” I detected an errant beat, but no matter how many times I’ve seen him do this song, I never get tired of the trick he plays on our senses, when you hear that crashing wave of piano, even while Jon is on the other side of the stage, busting out a scorching guitar solo.

Jon dusted off a couple of straightforward covers, one by Les Paul and Mary Ford, the other by the Zombies, then fired up the video mixers.

Here’s my oversimplified take on the video mixers: Jon has long established himself as the one-man band ne plus ultra, but the video takes him into the realm of a one-man symphony. The stars of these video clips become, in essence, fantasy session musicians. I realize that, by now, most of us know this practice as sampling, but in a day and age when you can take all but the name of any old song, sing a couple of different lyrics over it, and sell it for $1.19 on iTunes, it’d be foolish to lump in this real-time exercise with those scams.

For the night’s first video outing, Jon brought out Sonny Rollins (via video) and, later, Jacques Brel. I can’t say that I noticed Jacques Brel’s contributions in the mix, but Sonny Rollins’ became much more evident as the song developed. Of course, Jon had to put all the pieces in place first--and I haven’t even mentioned how amazing it was to hear “Rocket Man” at all! But with the foundation--not to mention the foyer, at least two bedrooms, and 1.5 bathrooms--set, Jon trickled in bits of sax, then sped them up, played them backward, and jumbled them every which way. The sax, in effect, became the spacey filigree, suggesting takeoff and punching up the atmospherics.

Jon cleansed the palate with a few more originals, including the ever impeccable “Strings That Tie to You.” And unlike two weeks ago, no technical glitches marred this rendition.

He asked for a closing number and, once decided (though still unknown to us), acknowledged that at least we would get an uptempo and “epic” finale. “Heroes” definitely qualifies as uptempo, though certainly not upbeat, and on top of this already byzantine series of loops, he introduced even more layers. Joining the chorus, at least on video, were Ravi Shankar on sitar, a ‘70s-era guitarist I can’t name, maybe a few moments of a Leonard Bernstein-led orchestra, and, by accident, a roaring metal show--Jon used the guitar solo from the last clip anyway.

I love the return of Jon’s second set, I love how the logistics have worked out at the Coronet, and I especially love the contrast between the two segments of the gig. The names onstage may (or may not) be the same, but the experience in the two rooms, I can guarantee you, will not. At several points during the post-show, I almost had to pinch myself to remember I was in a club, not in someone’s living room.

The first instance was the Buzzcocks’ “You Say You Don’t Love Me,” which sounded so close and so tender that you could easily forget its post-punk roots. The other major moment came during a one-two punch comprising a song I don't know, followed by a Randy Newman tune. Even sitting in the front row, we strained to hear Jon's hushed, gauzy vocals--not because of any technical problem, but because it was that kind of reading. Breathe and you’ll miss it.

Set 1
--I'm Just Foolin' Myself
--Pour Some Sugar on Me
--More Than This
--Here We Go
--Love of My Life So Far
--Happy with You
--I Really Don't Want to Know
--This Will Be Our Year
--Rocket Man
--Please Stay Away from Me
--Knock Yourself Out
--Strings That Tie to You

Set 2
--I Fall in Love Too Easily
--You Say You Don't Love Me
--Eternal Sunshine music?
--Ain’t Misbehavin' (?)

See also:
» first-time high
» the voices in your ear

Sunday, August 02, 2009

make no bones about it

Jarvis Cocker is back for a show at the Fillmore in San Francisco in the same decade?! Sometimes I love to be proven wrong.

Jarvis Cocker, the Fillmore, 07-28-09Jarvis Cocker, the Fillmore, July 28, 2009: As you may have guessed, I'm a repeat customer. When I find a band or a musician I really like, I'll come back as often as possible. Jarvis Cocker definitely qualifies for that list, and I intend to attend his concerts--as sporadic as they may be--for some time to come.

Alas, it appears that others may not share this opinion. Whereas his 2007 gig at the same spot quickly sold out, there were still plenty of tickets available for this appearance. The fools!

What they missed was Jarvis in vintage, inimitable form backed by the same band as before, including Steve Mackey and Simon Stafford as previously mentioned in this blog. Granted, his new album doesn't sound a lot like his older stuff, and it rocks a lot more than you'd expect. But the self-aware, slightly camp tone remains intact, as do the herky-jerky dance moves, the rambling monologues, and the adoring followers.

Jarvis Cocker, the Fillmore, 07-28-09

Before the show even began, we overheard a conversation about "Jarvis' throbbing pelvis" and our proximity to it. And by the time the gig drew to an end, we'd witness Jarvis himself engaging genially with the audience: guessing our names (badly), handing out chocolate (to keep our blood sugar up) and wine, accepting a drink, reading a wedding invitation. That last event inspired an impromptu performance of "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You," even as his bandmates gamely vamped at filling out the chords.

In between, of course, was the music, kicking off with "Angela" and making his way through selected tracks from both solo albums; there were no Pulp tracks, however. Jarvis would also ask us to contribute a hum to one track, hold forth on Bach's contributions to modern music, and strike up conversation about the sax. In addition to his singing and frontman duties, Jarvis played guitar, keyboards, cymbals, and a percussive gourd (a guiro, according to Google search results). Don't worry--Jarvis hasn't gone world music, but I'd venture to say his artistic evolution continues.

Jarvis Cocker, the Fillmore, 07-28-09

Some time after the gig, I realized that we were in the presence of a showman, a rarity among the earnest singer/songwriters I favor. He doesn't shy away from the attention, and he doesn't deny his leadership role. I'd probably dismiss those same moves on anyone else, but somehow, Jarvis carries it off--and puts other supposed rock stars to shame.

See also:
» let him read your palm and guess your sign