The Way It Went

Sparse Stage Set Up for Jon Brion’s June Show at Largo

Summer had arrived in Los Angeles and with the ushering in of higher temperatures and extended sunny evenings, I was once again at Largo at the Coronet for Jon Brion‘s show on Friday, June 30, 2017. While the weather couldn’t have been better, I sure could have been, having suddenly come down with something that was making my eyes and nose operate like a faucet someone forgot to shut off. So prior to the show I had taken multiple cold remedies, off the shelf and homeopathic, and eaten a bunch of foods with antihistamine properties. I was feeling a little strange and considered staying home, but at the same time I desired to get out of the house and the medicine seemed to be working.

Laura Kightlinger opened with a stand-up routine, getting the audience laughing with her nothing-held-back delivery.  I am guessing she may have been trying new material, which comics regularly do at Largo (as a safe place where the performances are not recorded). She is supposedly working on a special.

Jon walked onto the stage and straight to the piano as customary, playing a tasty starter of a warm-up piece, which had some descending chords in the left hand and a light melody in the right hand. When finished he said, “I have a nice frog in my throat that will come leaping out on some semi-eighth note” and sang the words “Life on Mars” while croaking. He stated he would like to “start with something different — how about a request?” Several song titles and artists names were shouted toward the stage, but one rang out clearly and he took on that vocal challenge to really kick off the show. The show proceeded as follows:

  1. Life on Mars” — David Bowie cover. Afterward he talked about the condition off his voice again, “I will eject it (the frog) like an LA landlord!” Then he decided, “Let’s do the whole show in reverse: singalong ones, maudlin material, then energetic to make up for the maudlin material…that should give us a good finish.”
  2. God Only Knows” — Beach Boys cover, as a singalong. Sebastian Steinberg appeared on stage with his bass to join in for the rest of the evening. Nice, crazy jazz ending with Jon getting stompy and then holding a pattern on piano while Sebastian walked the bass line under it. When the song finished Jon turned to Sebastian and noted, “We’re operating in reverse.” Sebastian responded, “I’ve cried already.”
  3. The Way It Went” — one of Jon’s unreleased songs and the first time that I have heard it. The only recording I could find of this song was in the middle of the podcast at the link. The song starts about 31 minutes and 20 seconds into the conversation. I’ve used the title of the song for the title of the post because it could not be more apropos.
  4. Ruin My Day” from Meaningless
  5. Strange Bath” from I Heart Huckabees, after concluding this one Jon called out, “I would like more Guinness and duct tape.” Pause, then continued, “Sounds like I’m about to abduct somebody and I’d like something smooth and creamy while I’m doing it.” He asked for requests again.
  6. Don’t Fear the Reaper” — Blue Oyster Cult cover, “The Peanuts Version,” as Jon called it, aka in the style of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, with some mashing in of “Linus and Lucy.”
  7. No Expectations” — Rolling Stones cover performed by Sebastian Steinberg on guitar.
  8. “Please Stay Away From Me” another of Jon’s unreleased songs. Jon is still on the piano for this one and Sebastian moved back to his bass.
  9. The Thrill is Gone” — cover of a song written by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell and covered by various musicians. Jon played this song after getting a request for Chet Baker. Before starting up the next tune, Jon put duct tape across the piano strings and plays a few measures of “Popcorn.”
  10.  “Don’t You Want Me” — Human League cover, another audience singalong, with mixed results on the verses. When finished Jon quipped, “We all get a participation trophy!” Then, “It’s 2017 again” as he takes the duct tape off the bass strings of the piano. He leaves the upper half on for the next song.
  11. Waterloo Sunset”  — Kinks cover. When he finished singing this one, he removed the rest of the duct tape, joking, “The piano’s parents paid it’s ransom.”
  12. Isolation” — John Lennon cover. For this song, Jon requested only the low end on the microphone and then he put it down on the floor under his foot and turned it into a kick drum.
  13. Looney Tunes” medley. I wrote down “scheming” in my notes, I can’t remember why, but I think Jon was messing around on the piano and Sebastian was happily joining him on bass. He commented, “We’re scoring an imaginary Bugs Bunny cartoon.” Jon included bits of “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” and Elmer Fudd’s “Ride of the Valkyries” inspired “Kill the Wabbit” before concluding with the Looney Tunes theme.
  14. Rhapsody in Blue” by Gershwin (and more than just a couple measures) with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.
  15. Here We Go” from Punch-Drunk Love
  16. Stardust” – Hoagy Carmichael cover. Jon said, “I’m not used to hearing a Hoagy Carmichael request,” and so the requesters wish was granted.

It was a mellow and loosely-formulated night, with Jon spending the whole show at the piano. Nothing seemed like too much of a stretch. All these songs were old favorites that have made his playlists before. There was some talk in the courtyard after the show that Jon might play in the Little Room, but as he had not announced that from the stage, there weren’t enough people hanging around the venue afterward to make up an audience. Maybe next time?