Saturday, July 08, 2017

you can't start a fire

This trip was made possible when, not entirely by surprise, I was let go by my company. To kick off my first ever funemployment tour, I headed straight to Largo at the Coronet for Jon Brion's monthly residency. (p.s. I'll be back behind a desk and earning a paycheck about a week from this writing.)

Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, May 27, 2017Jon Brion, Largo at the Coronet, May 27, 2017: Looking back over my notes from the show, I'm trying to figure out what happened on May 27 because both Jon and Flanny slipped in several political comments during the gig. My best guess: This was when the public first learned that Jared Kushner was under investigation for discussions with Russian agents during the presidential campaign.

It began when Flanny opened the show with his customary introduction, and my notes say "leave screens for Jared." I can't tell you anything else about the screens -- that's all I wrote. But he also brought more than one Guinness for Jon, and that's what really counts.

On cue, Jon picked up the topic of the day, with comments about Kislyak, as well as versions of "Freebird" for Putin and "Hail to the Chief" for you know who.

The set started properly with "God Bless the Child" on piano, which I wouldn't have known if Jon hadn't started singing (because I'm so terrible at identifying the standards). He followed up with an old favorite I've always loved: "Someone Else's Problem," complete with thunderous piano. "Life on Mars" rounded out this opening trio.

Jon has been working with a spare setup for the last few years now, by my reckoning -- thus, no drums and a minimum of guitars. However, the video units have shown up at the last several shows I've attended, and Jon quickly fired them up this evening. The first clip to air was the FDR string band (I don't know how I know this, but that's what my notes say; I assume the clip was accompanied by a label), and somehow Jon turned it into "Strings That Tie to You," escalating and distorting the background noise. I don't always get Jon's video creations, and to be honest, this was such an occasion.

The first requests of the night went to Jon's originals: the forever welcome "Here We Go" and "Same Mistakes." Then he went into "Someone to Watch Over Me," all instrumental and ragtimey and soulful. Fortunately, I usually recognize this with or without words.

Jon switched on the video machines again, and I knew this one as soon as the first clip appeared and could barely sit still during the build. It soon became a matter of waiting for the tune to develop, as Jon brought up a Latin band, Leopold Stokowski, and Maria Callas. Of course, it was "More Than This." I suspect Jon does the tune a lot these days, but I'm not around to see it, so I can't say for sure. If it has become part of the regular rotation, I see why: Jon has perfected this performance. Every part is beautifully integrated, and for the first time, it hit me: Maria Callas is the artistic embodiment of the Amazons on Roxy Music's album covers.

The next video extravaganza involved the 1-2-3-4 drum guy, Andres Segovia, and Leon Theremin. For a while, I didn't know where he was going, but it eventually became the audience-requested "Funkytown," including vocoder treatment. I have to admit -- the Theremin was a nice touch, even if the overall production was a little corny.

Jon finally picked up an acoustic guitar for "Anything Goes" and "Love of My Life So Far," then it was back to the collective for a request. Earlier in the show, Jon had taken his time as we threw title after title at him, but on this outing, he quickly jumped on an idea from the guy sitting next to me. Even better, the guy helped with the lyrics when Jon forgot.

The song was "Dancing in the Dark," and I feel like I need to fill in the background info on why this was such an unusual pick. To start, Jon is often considered a Boston guy because that's where he first became known nationally, but he was actually born in New Jersey. To that end, he's joked in old interviews that he's a Jersey boy at heart, though he hasn't exactly embraced Bruuuuuuuuce as an influence. Also, I think most music fans know Springsteen has mixed feelings about that album. Anyway, Jon threw himself into it, embracing it in all earnestness -- and it was awesome. Unfortunately, my friend sitting next to me didn't act on my suggestion that she jump onstage and do the Courtney Cox dance. Still, the song wouldn't leave my brain for most of the following week. Maybe "Glory Days" next time?

For the encore, Jon went with another favorite to bring us all together in these trying times. Let it be known: "God Only Knows" cures all ills. You never need to doubt it.

-- Freebird
-- Hail to the Chief
-- God Bless the Child
-- Someone Else’s Problem Now
-- Life on Mars
-- Strings That Tie to You
-- Here We Go
-- Same Mistakes
-- Someone to Watch Over Me
-- More Than This
-- Funkytown
-- Anything Goes
-- Love of My Life So Far
-- Dancing in the Dark

-- God Only Knows

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