I mentioned my current cheapskate status in the last post, but my hypocrisy will be revealed as I file my monthly Jon Brion report for his show at Largo at the Coronet. I went against my better judgement and made the trip to Los Angeles, but hey, if it means eating ramen for the next month, so be it.
Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, July 23, 2010: I'll say one thing about these monthly Jon Brion shows: No one is taking them for granted these days, judging by the vociferous audience reaction for both the June gig and now July's date. Tonight, that enthusiasm manifested early on, when a good swath of the audience started clapping in time--as if we were at a rock concert or something--in the run-up to Flanny's intro. Granted, I'm not sure it brought Flanny or Jon to the stage more quickly, but that spirit carried all through the show.
Or in the words of Dennis Duffy: "It's like my cousin Teddy's dog. Sometimes he just doesn't want to lick my feet. So what I do is, I hide my feet from him for a couple of days. And then when he sees them, he goes bananas. So you see in this example, Liz is the dog, and I am my feet. Do you see what I'm saying?"
Jon started out on the piano with a naggingly familiar song, but I blanked on it, even after he started singing--so thanks, Google! From there, he dove into his originals, both unreleased and otherwise for a decent stretch. In that block, "Ruin My Day" stood out for its fake-out beginning, with a few tentative notes sneaking together to form the song we know and love. The harmonica-and-celeste-laden "Knock Yourself Out" harkened back to versions we've heard before, but with a nursery rhyme-like quality I hadn't detected previously.
Jon turned on the video screens for "Strings That Tie to You," bringing together Andres Segovia and Maria Callas, though their contributions were fairly subtle. From the guitar footage, Jon isolated a few notes to loop and add to the mix, while Maria's aria once again served as something like a guitar solo, punching up the emotion and bringing a different texture to the tune.
From there, Jon asked for requests; I managed to get in the first one, taking us all the way back to the golden age of American indie rock for "Nothing Between Us" in a ragtimey tone. However, I admit that the second pick, "Love My Way," trumped my tune. Granted, I'm liable to say that about anything coming out of England in the '80s, but Jon's understated solo electric guitar treatment was simply dreamy.
That vigorous show-goers I mentioned at the outset? From the moment Jon asked for requests, at least one particularly group seated close to us had been shouting again and again for "Her Ghost." I'd like to be snarkier, but I have to give them credit for requesting one of Jon's own, for their persistence, and for their sincere thanks when Jon finally made their dreams come true. Besides, it's been a while since Jon dusted off the ditty, and it was a welcome return, especially in that "Almost Blue"-like mold he tried on.
Jon explained his next choice as a request he's never tried before, though I do recall a truncated attempt from a couple of years back. This time, he carried off "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" with nary a hitch, though he required a short interval to hammer out the details. Once prepped, Jon ran it through what might be called the White Album-style treatment, a template he also works with for "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "You Don't Know What Love Is," among others. His voice sounded lovely, a far cry from the Bryan Ferry rendition I usually hear in my brain, and bringing Jon's inspiration back to its Beatles roots, he rounded out this performance with a Slow Hand-worthy guitar solo.
Looking once again to his own songs, Jon brought out a hollow-body Gretsch for a delightfully jangly "It Looks Like You," then did a 180, easing out the Magnolia theme. Finally, for the last song of the main set, he went with a request for "Heroes," called out earlier in the evening. I've gushed about this song at great length all over this blog, so I'll go easy on the blabbing this time. Nonetheless, it remains as fantastic and as exhilarating as ever.
For the encore, Jon brought in his "conductor friend"--that is, footage of Leopold Stokowski (rendered in Warner Bros. form below; thanks for the tip, Gonzi!). Jon had cued up Leo earlier, but his contributions to "Heroes" was negligible, as far as I could tell. The orchestral strings came in more appreciably for "Please Stay Away From Me."
And then--it was over. No friends dropped in, and the second set in the Little Room didn't materialize, though we hung out for a little while just in case. I, of course, will always opt for maximum music, but it's hard to feel bad after such a buoyant, animated gig. As the saying goes: Always leave them wanting more. Consider us wanting.
--Our Love Is Here to Stay
--Piece of You
--Ruin My Day
--She's At It Again
--Knock Yourself Out
--Strings That Tie to You
--Nothing Between Us
--Love My Way
--Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
--It Looks Like You
--Please Stay Away From Me
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