Just Don’t Break Up the Connection

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Largo Courtyard

Thursdays, April 21, 2016, Largo at the Coronet hosted a show titled “Sweethearts,” featuring musicians Susanna Hoffs, Jon Brion, Greg Leisz, Paul Bryan, Chris Bruce, Abe Rounds, and Sara Watkins. With all of these talented musicians on the bill it seemed to be the making of an excellent concert. Then, that afternoon news broke of the death of music legend Prince. The Bangles had famously recorded a song written by Prince, “Manic Monday.” How would the news affect this concert and the song choices, if at all?  Well, as much as Jon Brion and Greg Leisz tried to blast the show into the stratosphere with their stellar playing, the flow of the show felt disjointed and rough. It was perhaps hampered by the amount of time taken between songs with musicians coming on and off stage, and seeming to take a longer time than usual in changing instruments, tuning, and adjusting settings. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad they take time to tune and I appreciate that shows there can have a looser feel than ones with musicians who play together regularly (and have techs to ease transitions). This show had some nice highlights and started kicking into gear at the end, but it was lacking that overall Largo magic and vibe that elevates the mood beyond all other issues of the day. I guess they can’t all be phenomenal.

Comedian Steve Agee did a short opening set, playing for laughs mostly on the topic of aging, and including being stoned, the wonder medication Preparation H, and how it feels watching his other friends become parents (to a baby named Gary).  He had some funny moments, but nothing that had me falling out of my chair with laughter.

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Stage Set for “Sweethearts” at Largo

The music part of the show had a classic country feel for much of the evening. It kicked off with Paul on an acoustic Gibson, Greg on his usual pedal steel and Jon playing a Fender. Susanna joined them on stage to sing a cover of the Everly Brothers tune “Walk Right Back.” The group was then joined on stage by Chris on bass and Abe on the drum kit, while Susanna grabbed her classic Susanna Hoffs Signature Limited Edition Rickenbacker. They busted out into a solid and fresh version of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl,” with Greg Leisz on guitar. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen him grab a guitar and then he goes and delivers a delicious solo, much to his credit. This was one of the best songs of the night and it being the second song in, I was hoping the rest of the evening would rock this hard.  But then the group rolled into a ballad first recorded by the Everly Brothers, “Love Hurts” and it felt like the energy fizzled out.  They returned to Neil Young again for a cover of “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” with Jon taking a cool solo.

The rest of the band left the stage apart from Jon and Greg, who played a couple songs, starting with Jon singing a song that has been recorded by Evan Dando, “Why Do You Do This to Yourself?” in which Greg played a beautiful pedal steal solo. The two then performed a straightforward cover of Bob Dylan’s song, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”

The other musicians returned to the stage along with Sara Watkins, who sang a short song by Rodney Crowell called “Above and Beyond (The Call of Love)” with Paul Bryan providing some nice complementary vocals. Jon had his big orange Gretsch out, which frankly we don’t see often enough in his solo shows. They reached back for another classic tune, this time covering Buddy Holly’s “I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” This time Paul was playing bass and Chase had switched to a Fender and was doing some nice supporting work on it. Well, I certainly was feeling the lyrics of this one and appreciated the song choice.

Again the musicians left the stage, this time leaving Sara Watkins alone playing her Gibson guitar dubbed “Pat.” She’s starting to promote a new album that will be released on July 1, called Young in All the Wrong Ways (check out her Pledge Music page at the link).  She introduced the next song by talking about waking up on New Year’s Day and driving into the desert when no one else is out on the highways yet. She feels like the desert is a renewing place and thus inspired her song, which has a beautiful line, “All that doesn’t matter dips away and the wonder takes my hand.” The band came back out, minus Susanna, to join Sara on another new song called, “The Truth Won’t Set Us Free.” A couple of the lines that struck me included, “Who’s to say the way that life’s supposed to go,” and “We are bound up in a world that took 20 years of making and the truth won’t set us free.”

Susanna then joined the band again as Sara left the stage and they rocked out on The Bangles song “Hero Takes a Fall.” That was a totally hot version of that song and I thought the group were getting into their stride. They followed it with another tune from The Bangles, the big hit, “Walk Like an Egyptian.”  Susanna usually plays this song when she is at Largo, so it wasn’t a surprise. Sara returned to play fiddle on the number. Of course, this song totally rocks, even if it has a kitsch quality to the “dance move” that accompanies it.  The outro contains one of the tastiest little guitar licks ever written and the band broke it down in stunning fashion that night.

Susanna announced “one more song” at this point and I was thinking, “Wait, what? We are finally getting going now.” Susanna began singing the line, “I can’t disguise the pounding of my heart…” and with those words she could no longer hold back the pain in her heart as she scrunched her face up tight and the tears started rolling down her cheeks. The group was playing Prince’s song “Take Me With U.” Jon assisted with some of the lyrics during the song as Susanna struggled to get through it and it ended with her back facing the audience, Abe singing the final lines, and the whole audience on their feet before the song was finished.  The house lights were brought up promptly and doors opened the moment the song was over as there was clearly to be no encore. In honor of Prince, I used one of his song’s lyrics, on a theme I’ve been trying to give more respect to lately in my life — connection, as this post’s title.

 

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I Could Sail Away to the Songs That Play

DSC05267One of my friends won tickets for Elvis Costello‘s concert on Sunday, April 3, 2016 at the Theatre at Ace Hotel and I got to be her plus one. Early in the week I had been checking to see if there were tickets to either of his shows that weekend, but they were sold out.  So this was an unexpected, but exciting opportunity to see a music legend. I have to admit to being only a casual fan of Elvis Costello, having liked most things I’ve heard from him, but never getting around to purchasing an album. Actually, I was thinking of adding some of his music to my collection a few months ago, but was daunted by his back catalog (30+ albums) and clueless as to what to start with. Having now seen him in concert and gained a glimpse of his body of work, I have a much better idea of which albums I would prefer.

DSC05283Entering the theatre the stage had a set on it — a retro TV set — and looked as if we were at a theatrical production. The screen was showing a slew of Elvis Costello’s old music videos and during the show would be used to embellish songs with photographs and slogans. There was a “Detour” sign for the name of the tour and an “on air” sign. A few guitars were set up on stage with some empty stands for more and a baby grand piano graced stage right. We were seated in the balcony along with other ticket winners, who were polite and interested, but not quite as enthusiastic as the fans in the orchestra seats.

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Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe

The opening band, Larkin Poe, was made up of two sisters who rock their southern roots music — Rebecca and Megan Lovell. They played a short, powerful set with Rebecca on electric guitar and kick drum and Megan on lap steel. Their soulful voices blended superbly as they broke out their first song, “Hey Sinner.” They introduced the next song as, “Our girl empowerment song.” Their harmonies were seamlessly intertwined on the cover of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty.”  Unfortunately, I missed much of the third song as there was some mix up in the seating that required us to check in back at the box office (and then we got to head back up the stairs to our seats in the balcony, no change having been made to our seating). The next song,”Blunt” appears on their new album Reskinned, which includes a few new tracks as well as re-imaginings/new productions of songs from their first album, Kin. The song was delivered with lively lead vocals and sparse musical accompaniment.  Then they played “Trouble in Mind” also from the latest album. This song made me wish they had at least a drummer, but other instruments too, backing them as the vocal and guitar performance are so powerful, I was itching for a fully scored arrangement to take this song over the top.  Their final song was a nicely interpreted cover of a tune penned by Sonny Bono,  “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” It was a short set, but the ladies returned to the stage during Elvis’s encores as his backing band.

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Elvis Costello Performs at Theatre at Ace Hotel

Elvis Costello played a generous length of time that night — over two and a half hours of music spanning across and weaving through his collected works, as well as incorporating some covers. I didn’t know what to expect going into the show, but I was not expecting him to be solo for much of the first 16 songs of the night. Yet, he carried those songs on his lone shoulders well. Stripped down to a guitar or piano and the vocal allowed the lyrics of the songs to shine. He took breaks between songs to explain the songs origins and inspirations or to divulge the circumstances he was in when he was developing or performing the songs in the past.  It felt like I was getting a lesson in the history of Elvis Costello’s discography and songwriting, which was fine with me, as I love to listen to personal stories. The concert seemed like it would be a fine supplement to Elvis’s recent autobiography, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink. Some of the stories he related included the origin of “Accidents Will Happen;”  working with Allen Toussaint in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina; his grandfather’s experiences in and immediately following World War I; his father, Ross MacManus, who worked as a radio singer and performed in the same Royal Variety Performance as The Beatles in 1963; and his own start in performing live music.

The set that night was as follows:

  1. Lipstick Vogue” from This Year’s Model
  2. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” from My Aim is True
  3. Accidents Will Happen“from Armed Forces
  4. Ascension Day” (written with Allen Toussaint) from The River in Reverse
  5. Church Underground” (link is from a stop on the Detour tour) from National Ransom
  6. 45” from When I Was Cruel
  7. Radio Soul” from his Flip City Demos, I’ve borrowed a line from this song for the title of this post
  8. She’s Pulling Out the Pin” from The Delivery Man
  9. A Matter of Time” video link is from this show, Los Lobos cover
  10. Deportee” from Goodbye Cruel World and King of the World bonus track
  11. Walkin’ My Baby Back Home” popular written by Roy Turk and and Fred E. Ahlert
  12. Ghost Train” from Get Happy!!
  13. Shabby Doll” video link to great version with Fiona Apple, from Imperial Bedroom
  14. Watching the Detectives” from My Aim is True (US release)
  15. I Scare Myself” Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks cover, link to Dan Hicks’s version
  16. Alison” from My Aim is True (END OF MAIN SET)

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    Elvis Costello at Theatre at Ace Hotel

  17. (FIRST ENCORE, Larkin Poe joins Elvis on stage) “Pads, Paws, and Claws” link shows version with Larkin Poe, from Spike
  18. Nothing Clings Like Ivy” from The Delivery Man
  19. That’s Not the Part of Him You’re Leaving” link includes Larking Poe, from National Ransom
  20. Blame It On Cain” from My Aim is True

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    Elvis Costello with Larkin Poe

  21. (SECOND ENCORE) “Pump It Up” from This Year’s Model
  22. Everyday I Write the Book” from Punch the Clock
  23. Good Year for the Roses” George Jones cover, from Almost Blue

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    Elvis Costello and Larkin Poe in the TV set

  24. (THIRD ENCORE, Elvis on piano) “Side By Side” standard written by Gus Kahn and Harry M. Woods
  25. I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down” Sam & Dave Cover, from Get Happy!!
  26. Jimmie Standing in the Rain/Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” video link from Detour tour, “Jimmie Standing in the Rain” is from National Ransom

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    Elvis Costello at the piano

  27. (FOURTH ENCORE) “(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” Brinsley Schwartz cover, written by Nick Lowe, from Armed Forces
  28. Down on the Bottom” The New Basement Tapes cover, written by Bob Dylan and Jim James, video link is with Larkin Poe
  29. All the Rage” from Brutal Youth
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Elvis Costello, concluding the concert with “All the Rage”

 

 

 

 

We Got Nothing But Night

When David Garza announced on the afternoon of Saturday, April 2, 2016, that he was planning a set with some guests in The Little Room at Largo at the Coronet that night, I made my plans to attend, though none of my friends could make the last minute show.  It was a small, but appreciative audience that night. I love the intimacy of this room, where sitting in the front you can feel the vibrations created by the instruments flowing right off the stage. I apologize in advance for the lack of thorough information on this show. I probably should have stayed at the end and chatted with some of the musicians, who were mingling with audience members after the show, to clarify some things. Hindsight is 20/20.

The first guest, who opened the show, hailed from Norway.  Egil Olsen tenderly sang and played guitar on a couple of his original songs, “Ooo What Happened,” off his album of the same name, and “Find a Way.” He remarked that the latter tune had “been on Norwegian radio 30 or 40 times.”  David accompanied him on the piano.

David then introduced Hayley Coupon, who sang a few songs in a vocal style and attitude that I imagined would be what Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character in Hudsucker Proxy would sound like if she sang.  It was jazzy and clear with a matter-of-fact, yet emotionally aware attitude. Sebastian Steinberg joined them on bass and was on and off the stage throughout the night. Not sure what the songs were titled that they performed here, and I’m going to hazard a guess it was some of her original material. The first song mentioned Los Angeles a couple times.  David then moved to guitar and they played a song with the line “winter had come to stay.” I liked the chord progressions on this one. David then moved back to the piano for the song “Bring Out the Madness,” which may not be the official title, but if it isn’t, it should be.  Check out Hayley’s Soundcloud page to hear songs from her EP Do the Right Thing, Like You Said You Would. As an aside, I’d love to hear her sing a song with Postmodern Jukebox. Scott Bradlee, make it so.

David then called his guitar-playing friend Harper Simon onto the stage and the pair played “Waiting On a Friend.”  The two then played what David described as a “New York night in the style of the Everly Brothers,” which turned out to be a dreamy duet of Blondie’s song “Dreaming.” Next, David got stompy with the song “Got My Mojo Workin’,” originally popularized by Muddy Waters, as the duo played some sweet blues riffs on their guitars. The audience got their mojos working too, as David encouraged us to repeat the refrain back to him. I was waiting for Harper to lead a song, but he never did. Next time, please?

The day before the show, David had released on album on Bandcamp called April Fool. He played two songs from it that night– “That Love” and “Tall Drink of Woman.”  Check out the link to stream/buy those songs (and the rest of the album). It still holds what I have said before, I like David’s music more and more every time I hear him. He is an astute songwriter, such a thoughtful player on piano or guitar (and riveting when he launches into Spanish-style playing), and he perfectly crafts his vocals for each song.

David had another guest, Mitre, an intense balladeer whether singing in Spanish or English, with an equally fabulous pompadour. The first song he sang in Spanish with a few lines in English was called “Lloro.” The heartbreaking lyrics I caught were “love has no guarantee” and at the end “there is no reason left to live.” Did he kill the audience with that song? Not quite, I was left still breathing, though barely, after having my soul crushed in two languages. Mitre and David then performed a spine-tingling version of the Elvis Presley song, “It’s Now or Never.” Mitre performed one more in Spanish with another singer, I think David called her Alih.

“We’re winding down, we have time for about 18 more…” joked David as Hayley joined him again on stage. They gave a sweet interpretation of Elvis Costello’s song “Alison” (and in one of those quirky coincidences that keep happening to me in relation to music, I was to see Elvis Costello in concert the following night and he performed “Alison” solo acoustic).  David played guitar while Hayley sang another song, with the tough-as-nails break-up line, “In the morning I’ll be coming just to leave.” David returned to the piano to accompany Hayley as she finished her time on stage with a beautiful cover of Joni Mitchell’s song “Woodstock.”

I loved hearing David enthusiastically play his groovy song “Disco Ball World” from his album This Euphoria. I absolutely dig that album and recommend people at least listen to a few of the tracks on YouTube, if not buying it outright. Then David encouraged Grant-Lee Phillips to take the stage. Grant-Lee had dropped into the Little Room after appearing in the main stage Largo show Spontaneanation earlier that night.  Grant-Lee borrowed David’s guitar and performed the moving song “Mona Lisa” from his album Virginia Creeper. He then brought out a tune from his new album The Narrows titled “San Andreas Fault.” To close the show, David shared a song written about Largo, “Black and Tan.” I’ve borrowed a line from it for the title of the blog, because when I attend a Largo show, this is exactly how I feel: “We got nothing but night.”

 

 

 

Ain’t Too Many Folks Can Play Too Many Notes

I was so lucky to see mandolin player extraordinaire Chris Thile in concert at my favorite venue, Largo at the Coronet, on Sunday, March 27, 2016. I am not going to go into lengthy details about Chris other than to mention I have seen him play a few times before with Nickel Creek, with the Punch Brothers, and as a soloist. Would I be talking him up too much if I said his gifts on the mandolin are unparalleled?

How do you warm up an audience for one of the foremost music geniuses of our time?  Apparently, with feats of prestidigitation and telepathy. Derek Hughes brought his comedic magic talents to the stage, performing his guess the color of the crayon trick, card tricks, and the alphabet block mind reading stunt with a flourish of humor and a knack for working the crowd. When Derek was finished, Chris appeared briefly on stage to much applause, but he was only there to introduce the next guest. Zach Galifianakis made a surprise appearance to do a stand-up comedy routine. He was funny and the crowd appreciated him, but he seemed a little nervous during his set.

Here are the selections of music that Chris Thile chose to play:

  1. Here and Heaven” — from The Goat Rodeo Sessions
  2. Rabbit in a Log” — from Sleep with One Eye Open, Chris called this “a minimalist thing — an experimentation with nearly perfect fifths.” It was his acknowledgement of the show being on Easter.
  3. Song for a Young Queen” — from Not All Who Wander Are Lost, he introduced it by saying, “Almost all musicians go through a Natalie Portman stage” and how he was inspired to write this song when he first saw her photo in a magazine when he was a teenager and Star Wars Episode 1 was coming out.
  4. Moonshiner” from Ahoy!
  5. If You’re Gonna Leave Me” –“set me up with one of your friends”
  6. Daughter of Eve” — Chris told of his dramatic interpretation of the Adam and Eve story that he thought might be suitable for “Garden of Eden Fan Fiction”
  7. Magnet” from The Phosphorescent Blues
  8. Jealous of the Moon” — from Nickel Creek’s album Why Should the Fire Die?
  9. Bach’s Sonata No. 2 in A minor for solo violin — from his album Bach Sonatas & Partitas, Vol. 1 He played all four parts– Grave, Fuga, Andante, Allegro — taking a brief (well-deserved) break in the middle.
  10. My Oh My” — from The Phosphorescent Blues. As he concluded his set, he said, “You have made it through a truly reprehensible amount of mandolin playing!” Indeed, but I was riveted for every single minute.
  11. Songs on the Mandolin” — he played his self-referential tune about taking his mandolin along with him on a date. I’ve used a lyric from this song for the title of this blog post, because it sums up Chris perfectly.

For the encore, Chris came out right to the edge of the stage and asked for a request. There were lots of shouts from the audience but he zeroed in on “This is the Song” from the Punch Brothers’ album Antifogmatic. This slower, moody tune was a fitting way to pluck us all down from our clouds and slowly bring us back into reality. If you ever get a chance to see Chris play live, you must take it! The experience is transcendent.

 

 

Go Ahead and Break My Heart

DSC05252I was back at  Largo at the Coronet on Friday, March 25, 2016 for Jon Brion’s monthly show. The addition of special guest Grant-Lee Phillips livened up the night. I’ve seen Grant-Lee perform a few times: three times with his band Grant Lee Buffalo, once on the “Surf and Turf” tour with Glen Phillips, and twice with Steve Poltz.  I adore Grant-Lee’s voice and his wonderful sense of humor, so I was absolutely delighted when he played an opening set and later joined Jon on the stage.

DSC05251When Grant-Lee sat down with his Gibson J-200 guitar to open, he glanced around himself at the leather-backed chair, classic UFO shaped metal lamp, and patterned rug and remarked, “I’m gonna settle in to Jon’s little steampunk parlor he has set up here.” Grant-Lee is getting started touring behind his new album The Narrows (he heads to Europe in April) and began his set by playing five new songs from the album.  “Holy Irons” was the first of these, which he kicked off noting how dry it is here, saying, “I snorted a lot of (pause) dust yesterday — that valley dust.” Next he played “Smoke and Sparks,” followed by “Loaded Gun,” which he referred to as having an “old Memphis rhythm.” He introduced “Cry Cry” by saying, “This is more of a historical, emotional nature.” He prefaced the final song from the new album, “No Mercy in July,” with the comment, “I’ve been following the water crisis and I said to myself, ‘There is a romantic topic!'” A thought-provoking line of that song, “Can’t hold out long, one more summer and we may be up and gone.”

Jon Brion then joined Grant-Lee on stage and sat down at the piano. They play the Grant Lee Buffalo song “The Hook” from the album Fuzzy. There was some discussion about the next song and Grant-Lee noted that he now plays it a half step up from the original version, but somehow they got sidetracked onto playing Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets.” Sebastian Steinberg joined them on stage as the song commenced. During the song, Jon called out for, “Tons of slapback on everything to Alec in the sound booth.” The audience was swept up into the energy of the song and sang along, especially the refrain. In between songs, there was some complementary banter between Jon and Grant-Lee; Jon was clearly enamored of Grant-Lee’s talents. Sebastian, who was positioned between the two, pulled his bass upstage, noting he needed to “get out of the way of the love bolts.” Next the trio played the previously planned “Happiness,” which is from Grant Lee Buffalo’s great album Mighty Joe Moon.  Have I mentioned how much I love Grant-Lee’s voice?  It sounded so good on this one. As Grant-Lee leaves the stage, Jon said to the audience, “You lucky dogs, you just got to hear that!” As my 9-year-old son would say, “I know, right?”

The Jon Brion set then commenced, well sort of, as he remarked that he needed to warm up his fingers and that “the show will start in about 40 minutes.”  He mentioned he would “have to reach back 80 years or so” and played a classic jazz standard thing (which I failed to identify) with broken bass chords in the left hand of the style he often is inclined to play in the early part of his show. This style most reminds me of my Dad’s piano playing and fills me with a feeling of nostalgia.

Jon then played his emotionally-saturated song “Go Ahead and Break My Heart,” after which Sebastian left the stage. May the powers that be please have Jon release this amazing song in a portable format? This song is lyrically stunning and the music that goes with it is equally beautiful. I’m loving this song so much lately; I’ve used the main line for the title of this post. Here are most of the lyrics I was able to note down (assuming I heard them correctly, some lyrics are missing):

  • Giving it a go round, not ’cause I’m weak or strong, I’ve just been locked away too long…
  • Guess I might as well, oh I’m willing can’t you tell
  • So go ahead and break my heart it makes no difference to me because I haven’t been free
  • Go ahead and break my heart, don’t care if you do, but could you wait until the night is through
  • ..figure why not, I’m gonna take another shot
  • I’m gonna take it for a spin and I don’t care if you win
  • So go ahead and break my heart, I said go ahead and try, I won’t even ask you why
  • Go ahead and break my heart, it’s okay if you do, but could you wait a year or two
  • Giving it a go round, you can show me what you’ve got, you might think I’m kidding but I’m not.
  • I’m (not?) giving it a go round though my heart’s been in a sling, I’m just too tired to guard the thing
  • Go ahead and break my heart ’cause it could go that way, I don’t know why I shy away
  • Go ahead and break my heart, I don’t care if you do or don’t, I’m just hoping that you won’t.

Then Jon wanted “one more round of making my fingers move” and played some of his typical warm up stuff and mixed in snippets of songs like “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,”the bass line of “Sunshine of Your Love,” the Wicked Witch of the West motif from Wizard of Oz, and “Rhapsody in Blue.” I wonder if he heard me mutter “more of that” as he played that instantly recognizable measure of “Rhapsody in Blue”, either way he played a couple minutes of that one. From there he segued straight into his tune “Strange Bath” from I Heart Huckabees, which he seems to often use as a transition piece.

Then Jon switched over to playing that beat up looking Gibson guitar, which he appeared to be fighting against whenever he played it that night. Hey Jon, I know a guy who can do an amazing set up for you. He played “It Looks Like You,” which has been recorded by Evan Dando. He took a request from a frequent audience member for “The Girl I Knew.” Interesting how those two different songs’ lines could be a couplet: “It Looks Like You got some explaining to do; The Girl I Knew would make fun of you.” He played a bunch of brooding chords and launched into that one song that he has played a few times in the last year, I’ll call it “What Are We Left With” as I don’t know the official title.  It has lyrics such as “The sweetest smile on your face and now you’re something to avoid…you’re strange and you’re accusing every friend, and I’ll just stick to the scene where we already know its end.”

Jon headed back to the piano and said before the next song that, “This song is not a knock on anything that anyone wants” and something about those who don’t want those things to not be psychologically analyzed. He played an unreleased song that I refer to as “That’s What People Do,” which has a following lyric of “and if you don’t there’s something wrong with you.” This song explores the idea that unmet expectations about traditional life choices are the impetus for much judgment or evaluation of the non-conformist.  He continued on this melancholy thread with “Strings that Tie to You” from the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack. Then, from the same movie he played his song “Row,” which is on the soundtrack as an instrumental, but in this instance he sang the words from his notebook! A couple of lines were, “We’re all but dead and in my head we’re going over all that was said” and “forgotten more than you remember, as echos of our former splendor fade.” My mood was taken down several levels during this section of the show. I felt like I was underwater and waiting to be pulled to the surface.

Jon sensed it was time to switch things up. Sebastian returned to the stage and they played Slim Gaillard’s “Flat Foot Floogie.” Then, Jon decided he was going to play a tune by Duke Ellington and says to Sebastian, “We haven’t done the stock one.”. Sebastian replies with a great comeback, “I don’t know half the shit I play in this room!” They played a solid version of “Satin Doll.”  Then they played “Trouble” from Jon’s album Meaningless.  I had only just discovered Jon’s version of Queen’s “Play the Game” on YouTube the day before, so it was pretty cool when he then played it at the show. Love his recorded arrangement of this song (at the link), which captures the style of the original but has that Jon Brion interesting instruments magic about it.

Grant-Lee returned to the stage at this point and the trio performed Queen’s monster of a song, “We Are the Champions” with the audience joining in and Grant-Lee leading the vocals. This was followed by the Queen and David Bowie song “Under Pressure,” with a huge audience singalong. I had read an article that week that included an anecdote about Grant-Lee having once attempted this with Jon at the old Largo as a duet with Elliott Smith.  This sparked off the transition from Queen to Bowie as they next covered Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” (from Scary Monsters).  Then Jon made a request for Grant-Lee to play his song “Fuzzy.” Such beautiful vocals from Grant-Lee on that tune.

On the drive to Largo, I had been hoping for a song to pop up on my shuffled iPod that would fulfill an emotional need for something with depth and feeling. The next song that came on was Bowie’s “Life on Mars” from Hunky Dory. How cool when the trio decided to perform that song that same night with Grant-Lee on vocals. After the song Grant-Lee and Sebastian left the stage. Jon played “Meaningless” on guitar, which had been requested earlier, followed by “Knock Yourself Out” from I Heart Huckabees. For the encore, he returned to the piano and gave a rare performance of his song “Trial and Error,” as requested by someone in the audience. He concluded the night with what he referred to as an “Irving Berlin song I learned from a Fats Waller record.” I am not 100% sure what that song was, but it may have been “Waiting At the End of the Road,” which fits the criteria and sounds plausible from what I remember of the tune.

It was an emotional roller coaster of a show. Fantastic to see Grant-Lee Phillips perform and one could see that Jon was excited to have him there. While I love solo acoustic performances, I feel like some of Jon’s shows have been lacking that interaction with musicians that seems to really drive and inspire him, which you see happen to him when he sits in on other people’s shows.  The next two Jon Brion shows are scheduled for April 29 (I’m going to miss that one) and May 27.