Jon Brion stood before the audience with his lanky form, with his limp dark brown hair drooping in long locks that covered his enthusiastic face and gracious smirk. Donning a dark grey pin stripe suit, with a light shirt that was offset by a pastel tie with angled stripes- he looked like a classical musician about to sit before a piano and lull us into peaceful oblivion. At times, he was this classical pianist and he did grace our ears with a somber melodramatic tune that struck the nerves at an emotional angle... But, Jon Brion is a musician's musician- playing one instrument and one style of music simply won't satisfy him.
Flanked by an array of pedals, guitars, a xylophone-like instrument, various noisemakers, synthesizers, a piano, countless keyboards, a drum kit, & audio/visual manipulators, Jon Brion's stage looked more like a mad scientists laboratory then your standard concert setting. I can tell you, he lived up to the visual precedent! Muttering to himself, humming an unknown tune, throwing his guitar picks frantically into the air, and jumping frantically all about the stage, Jon Brion reminded me of Renfield in that infamous London asylum making preparations for "Master". The only difference here was that all that frantic movement had a purpose beyond blood lust. You see, his maniacal jaunts about the stage involved prepping guitars, banging at the drums to prepare for a loop, and rapping away at the baby grand piano before laying his hands on audio/visual turn tables.
All that drama had an impressive effect on the audience, who over time became infected with the same frantic lunacy that Mr. Brion seemed to possess. Most of the show involved audience members comically shouting out a variety of song requests like lunatics between songs. The noise became so overwhelming, that you could barely make out any words! It was a true cacophonous din in that cramped the little venue, but the pleasant part was that the requests were out of adoration, not drunken idiotic aggression.
One of the most memorable moments of the concert came when Jon Brion invited hip hop artist K-Flay to the stage to do a duet of a stripped down version of R Kelly's "Feelin' on Yo Booty". Man, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. It was a REALLY good song musically, but, of course the lyrics just made me giggle uncontrollably. Immediately after the cover ended, Jon convinced K-Flay to stay for some freestyle, and she delivered some awesome rhymes with her smooth flowing yet gently raspy voice. I make no claim that I would know good rhymes from bad ones, but, her inflection kicked ass, she had a good rhythm and pace, and her voice was unique.
By the end of the show, I could tell one thing for certain, almost everyone in there could sing, and were most likely music majors- and here's my proof; Jon actually got the entire audience to begin singing the words to the Beach Boys classic "God Only Knows (What I'd be Without You)" while he handled the musical accompaniment. It was perfectly pitched, and a LOT of fun to hear so many people happily singing. Right after this chorus-line performance, Jon Brion literally WOWED the shit out of me, by doing a musical medley montage that began with music of the 1920s, and then played a tune for every decade... until he finally made his way back to 2011.
I've never seen or heard anything like the show put on by Jon Brion, it was truly impressive... especially it was all done on a whim with just one talented man, a/v projectors, and a stage covered in instruments. Here's hoping Jon Brion sets up camp in NYC for a little while, and gives us some more shows, like he does in LA at Club Largo.
Here's my makeshift set list-- I didn't know a good portion of the songs or their names, really, I went because I knew if Jon Brion came to my town, I should definitely catch him...
She's Funny that Way
Someone Gets You
Why do You Do This to Yourself
Baby You're a Different Girl
Will You Get Over Yourself
Beating Up My Heart
Wrinkle in my forehead... (this was the beginning lyrics of the song)
...when I'm sad
Making Plans for Nigel (XTC Cover)
Love of My Life, So Far
...and an EPIC guitar solo
Off the Wall w/ a brief segue into Gary Glitter's Rock& Roll
Trial and Error
Feelin on Yo Booty (RKelly Cover) with K-Flay
K-Flay free style
God Only Knows (What I'd be Without You) (Beach Boys Cover)
1920s- 1990s and beyond-- Including Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Foreigner, Nirvana, Outkast and many more!