Jon Brion cooked up another show for us at Largo at the Coronet on Friday, October 28, 2016. A very special guest was promised and of course rumors abounded. Turned out to be actor and comedian Adam Sandler, who was on hand to try out a slew of new material. He read off many sheets of paper and had a keyboardist in tow to back him up on some of his comedic songs. Some stuff was hilarious and had me laughing hard, some stuff didn’t hit, some was just too much information and not to my taste. His set was like an encapsulation of his movie career to be honest — a few well-done movies with both touching and hilarious moments and some just playing too hard on the broad comedy to be appealing to me. Adam’s set lasted about an hour and then the audience had a short break before Jon took to the stage. Here’s a photo taken of Adam Sandler that night from Largo’s Instagram account.
Jon entered the stage and headed straight to the piano as usual and played warm ups on the high notes. There was a circular seat in place of the usual piano bench, which looked like a drummer’s chair. He then transitioned to a jazz standard kind of thing that I didn’t recognize. Parts of it sounded like a sped up version of “Everything Happens to Me.” There was a problem on the piano with one of the keys (13th or 14th from the left end – possibly the G as Jon mentions later about daring to play a song in the key of G – as well as one of the keys next to it). Lincoln subtly slipped a Guinness onto the edge of the piano during this song. Jon discovers it at the end of the song and says, “This is certainly for me; this bodes well for two or three songs from now.” The rest of his set was as follows:
- Jon played an unrecorded song with the likely title of “You’re Someone Else’s Problem Now,” of which I was certainly feeling some affinity when listening to it. “Everything I did for you is out of love, take for instance running when you called.”
- He switched to his 12-string Yamaha and sang and played “She’s At It Again.” That was hot. I love this song on electric guitar but he keeps demonstrating how good it is on whatever instrument (we heard it on a grand piano in July).
- Jon called up to the sound booth, “If you have some old Sun Records-style slap back you can turn it way up – like egregiously.” He then played his song “One More Excuse to Cry.”
- Jon pulled out the Gibson and adjusted the tuning pegs. He began by playing heavy on the bass notes and then launched into the song “Same Things” from The Grays. I I caught some eye contract from Jon during this song and wondered if he was noting me doing the same thing — here we both are again at Largo. Attending these regular performances are starting to feel like the movie Groundhog Day, but with the time loop on a monthly scale rather than a daily scale. I’m beginning to wonder which of my life priorities I need to examine. I guess I’ll keep attending Jon’s shows until I figure it out.
- Jon switched back over to the Largo piano and fiddled around with the two sticky keys. He played a Jaws teaser on them. Then he switched to tack and started the bouncy “Knock Yourself Out” from I Heart Huckabees. The line from the song, “It might be a test or it might not be anything you need to worry about,” is constantly challenging my perceptions. Check out this version if you want to see a little more of the magic of Jon Brion.
- Perhaps in honor of Adam’s visit, Jon played “Punch-Drunk Melody” from the movie Punch-Drunk Love, which Sandler starred in. Check out this recently released clip about Jon’s inspiration for some of the music behind the movie.
- He played that piece straight into his song “Here We Go,” from the same movie.
- At this point Jon turned to the audience and asked for a request. A regular Jon Brion show attendee was first off the line with his request and so Jon played, “Love of My Life So Far.” Jon put duct tape on the piano strings to modify the sound for this one.
- Jon then headed back over to the guitars and pulled out the orange Gretsch electric guitar. A half-whispered, but still audible “yes” escaped from my mouth, because awesome sounds are usually forthcoming when he plays that guitar. I worried momentarily of having my hopes dashed as he was having some trouble getting the settings to be where he wanted them. He remarked,“We might have lift off.” And then as he fiddled around with pedals and switches, “This is a big professional show.” He played “‘Round Midnight,” including a haunted ending. He pushed everything out of that guitar, finding every workable nuance to that song. There were a few moments of eye contact on this song too, when he wasn’t absolutely absorbed in the music. It felt like he was declaring, “So you want to see what I can do with this guitar? THIS is what I can do!” This song was my highlight of the night, even if the vocals were overwhelmed by the guitar. I was sitting up front and maybe the sound was better balanced further back in the room or maybe my ears were messed up from my head cold. I’ve used a lyric from this song as the post title.
- He returned to the piano and asked for more requests. Without indicating which one he had chose, Jon said, “Sing along if you know it” and played Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.” Well, I’m pleased anytime I hear him cover Bowie. I couldn’t hear that many people singing, though I was trying to against my sore throat. Jon (and therefore the audience) messed up the verse: “Make me baby, make me know you really care, make me jump into the air,” instead, he sang a line from first verse again.
- Jon asked for more requests. That night he seemed intent on the audience singing harmonies. Someone yelled “Let It Be” and Tom Waits is also requested. Jon quipped, “It would be funny to hear people singing harmony on the Tom Waits song.” He teased part of “Let It Be” in his best Tom Waits voice.
- Well, he settled on an old stand-by, the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” for the singalong. The audience wasn’t the best I’ve heard, after an initial start that was okay, they were all over place tempo wise and lyrically. I turned to a friend and whispered, “This audience sucks” and she said something like “Don’t be so judgy,” which resulted in my having a nearly uncontrollable case of the giggles for the rest of the song, which I tried desperately to stifle. I blame the cold medications I was on and my lack of sleep the night before — a few hours before the show started I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to attend, so I took maximum doses of all available potential remedies.
- After a little bit of mad pianist playing, his next song was another one of his unrecorded originals, “Please Stay Away From Me.”
- Jon commented on his, “Public quarrels with the physical abilities of inanimate objects.” He decided to perform some Queen as it was being requested regularly throughout the night. He said, “Let’s give it some proper Live Aid energy.” He played, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” dropping the “Is this the real life” section and beginning at the piano intro to “Mama, just killed a man…”. During the a cappella middle section of the song he walked across the stage to get his Guinness from the little table where he plays guitar, then sat back down to finish out the song where the piano joins back in.
- He immediately followed that up with an exuberant version of Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” The audience almost redeemed themselves.
- For the encore Jon said, “I’d like to bring it down a bit with this next request.” The lights on stage are dimmed in response and Jon plays his song “Trial and Error” on piano.
- One final request from the audience, Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town.” While Jon was working on readying the guitar for this one and picking out a rhythm, I got “What’s the matter with the clothes I’m wearing…” in my head based on the rhythm Jon was playing. Then I couldn’t get Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” out of my brain and was singing a counterpoint of that in my head while everyone else was singing “Boys…”.
There were a lot of Jon’s unrecorded songs played that evening. Is this a glimpse at a forthcoming second album? Fans remain ever hopeful. Interesting to note that this was the first show in a while when has not played one single song from his first album Meaningless. One final photo from Largo below — of Jon playing guitar while his Guinness glass distorts the view of his hand.