Tuesday, January 24, 2017

purple rain

I have no idea why it took me so long to blog this, but here you go, in case you were wondering how Jon Brion's last show of the year at Largo went.

Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, December 23, 2016: I managed to hit only two Jon Brion shows this year, so obviously I've missed a lot of developments at the club, but there was no way I could've predicted that two other women in the front row would also be taking notes. Is this where I mention I've been doing this for more than 10 years?? Deep breath, serenity now, namaste. Anyway, welcome to the crew, ladies!

By now in California, we're almost used to the return of rain after so many years of drought, but I have to admit this night in LA was as rainy as I've ever seen. And thanks to the city's inadequate drainage system, whole intersections (I'm looking at you, Melrose and La Cienega) resembled shallow lakes. It was a sight to behold. Largo wasn't exempt, as small puddles gathered in the entryway. Thankfully, the inner sanctum was nice and dry.

In a nod to the Largo legacy, Bobb Bruno opened the show in his customary bunny suit. His set was lovely, morphing from dreamy and melodic to hip-hop beats and ending with Mariah Carey. It's always great to see him at Largo.

Once upon a time, everyone at Largo knew Bobb on sight, but when Flanny took the stage, he helpfully supplied an intro and mentioned Bobb's gig with Best Coast. Flanny also mentioned Largo's upcoming 20th anniversary, which conveniently gives me a chance to link to my first Jon Brion show. (Yes, I've been doing this for a while.) I recall that Flanny promised good things to come in 2017 (at Largo, anyway), but you can say that about the club at any time.

Finally, it was Jon's turn, and per usual, he went to the piano, where he eventually drew out "Punch-Drunk Melody" and "Someone Else's Problem Now," at which point I knew it was going to be a good night. I don't go to Largo as often as I used to, so it's an extra treat to hear the older songs. He ended the opening run at the piano with "Over Our Heads," adorned with Moog and vocoder.

He next picked up an acoustic guitar, kicking off with a decidedly satirical "Hail to the Chief," along with a quick mention of the "incoming totalitarianism." In fact, Jon would sprinkle several comments about the new president through the performance, alternating between gallows humor and encouraging us to stay strong. At this juncture, it led to the more traditional fare of "It Looks Like You" and "Why Do You Do This to Yourself."

Jon returned to the piano, and later in the night, he would explain his guitars were reacting badly to the weather. But at that moment, all we heard was "Happy With You," as Jon's feet kept time.

As I said above, I haven't been to many Largo shows recently, but on the whole, Jon now seems to favor a sparse setup, and tonight was hardly the overload we've seen in the past. However, the video mixers were back, apparently for the first time in a while, and Jon made sure to put them to use. He called up clips of Andres Segovia, Maria Callas, and Leopold Stokowski, and eventually, they chipped in for "Strings That Tie to You." I'm going to be honest -- I'm not entirely sure what they brought to the song. Then again, Jon admitted he was a little rusty on the video mixers, though he showed a defter hand as the night wore on.

Jon finally opened the floor to requests, and as you can imagine, the floodgates opened. He started with Bowie, but the Prince requests also gained steam, to the point where Jon took an unofficial poll to gauge interest. It sounded like a draw to me, but Jon proceeded regardless, starting with a video of a drummer counting off, then joined by another clip of guitar lessons and an orchestra. The payoff was "Moonage Daydream" and, after more video magic from Jon, "Purple Rain." I heard Jon cover this song a while ago, and I recall the absolute thrill of recognizing the tune. But it's a good thing I keep notes -- according to my post, it was a wordless Les Paul-style cover, not a rousing singalong as I wanted to believe.

Tonight, we belted it out, though not quite as smoothly as some of us probably hoped. As a group, we pretty much forgot everything but the first verse and the chorus. However, in Los Angeles, the audience is bound to include people who not only know all the words but can sing the harmonies too. One of the night's heroes happened to be sitting in the row right behind me, and because of his proximity to the stage, his words actually reached Jon to guide him. You're the real MVP, buddy!

The next tune was a request for "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime," featuring footage of Eric Clapton. This was another classic I was so happy to hear and was glad to be reminded of its brilliance in Jon's hands. Jon then hit on "Same Mistakes," before entertaining a request for "Ignition Remix." I thought I heard Jon mention Paul McCartney, but a Google search turns up R. Kelly, and my notes offer no further illumination. If you have more information, I'd love to hear it. The counting drummer made another appearance for "Misty Mountain Hop."

Jon moved over to the electric guitar for, at first, "Waterloo Sunset," which continues to wow. I don't know how many times I've heard Jon cover this song, but it still sounds so damn good. Jon followed up with "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," a no-brainer for the evening. Jon sort of vocalized the Bacharachian horns, and the audience clapped along to keep the beat. Thus, the main part of the night drew to an end.

I'd like to mention that our semi-typical Largo gang (Evonne, Paul, and me) welcomed a couple of new faces for the show: my best friend Doreen and her six-year-old daughter Penelope. With this in mind, when I finally managed to get in a request at the start of the encore, I made sure it was a good one, a song that was not only treasured by Doreen, Evonne, and me, but that (duh) Jon could and probably would do. Mind you, I'd been throwing out requests all night, but this one happened to stick. Jon prefaced the song with the comment that he'd been doing it a lot lately, but I was glad he went in anyway. The song was, of course, "More Than This," featuring clips of a Latin band, Percy Grainger, and Jacques Brel. If I've mentioned listening to Roxy Music as a teenager, let me say now that Doreen was playing and listening to them with me.

Jon closed the night with his own "Please Stay Away From Me."

In case you were wondering, there were no guests tonight and barely a mention of the yuletide, not even a bar or two of "Jingle Bells," as Jon has snuck in before. Even for Jon Brion, this was the least Christmas-y show I may have ever attended at Largo. However, we got a great night, with Jon in good spirits, and we were up for several hours afterward, discussing the gig. No wonder it's my favorite way to ring in the holidays.

-- Bobb Bruno opener
-- piano
-- Punch-Drunk Melody
-- Someone Else’s Problem Now
-- Over Our Heads
-- Hail to the Chief
-- Looks Like You
-- Why Do You Do This to Yourself
-- Happy With You
-- Strings That Tie to You
-- Fantastic Voyage
-- Moonage Daydream
-- Purple Rain
-- Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes
-- Same Mistakes
-- Misty Mountain Hop
-- Waterloo Sunset
-- Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

-- More Than This
-- Please Stay Away From Me

Ghosts of Christmas past:
» i'll be a rock 'n' rolling bitch for you
» let your heart be light
» i'm offering this simple phrase
» it's been said many times, many ways
» with soul power
» it's the end of the things you know
» you could say one recovers
» a really good time
» the things you do to keep yourself intact
» i've heard a rumor from ground control
» strangest times

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