SHOW REVIEW: Jon Brion at the Largo

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Photo by Lincoln Andrew Defer/The Largo LA.

The Largo at the Coronet is a venerable LA-nightlife institution, as evidenced by the photos of star comedians like Zach Galifianakis and Sarah Silverman in the lobby and, of course, by the great Jon Brion�s status as an essential artist-in-residence there. He has played the Largo monthly since 1996, often bringing friends and surprise famous guests. As an independent musician, producer for artists including but not limited to Aimee Mann, Elliot Smith, Fiona Apple, and Kanye West, and composer of the score for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I Heart Huckabees, and Boogie Nights, Jon Brion has connections and talent enough to be distributed equitably between at least five or six people. Though his set a couple weeks ago on November 18 was more acoustic and mellow than I had been led to expect, I still came away satisfied and impressed by Brion and a certain special surprise guest. Comedian Bill Burr opened for Brion, starting off his set with some laughs at the expense of the diamond industry (which definitely deserves all sorts of mocking) and recent sex scandals. Nonetheless, the audience became palpably uncomfortable when, with the sort of casually mean-spirited sexism unfortunately common in comedy, he ripped into the plague of �gold-digging whores� bringing down �great men� like Arnold Schwarzenegger. His material until that point was decently funny, but afterward he struggled to recover his hold on the audience for the few minutes that remained.

Jon Brion arrived thereafter without much delay to begin his fairly lengthy set. The stage at the Largo is beautiful: it�s a small, intimate theater, and Brion himself called attention to the warm, lovely lighting and attractive design on the stage. He was flanked by a piano and about six guitars, all of which he used at various points throughout the show. Moving back and forth between instruments, he spun his way through a series of pieces from his personal albums, film scores, and unreleased material such as the beautiful �Love of my Life so Far� (my favorite and a definite highlight of the show). Throughout, Brion engaged as comfortably with the crowd as though he was performing in his own living room, joking, making fun of himself when he made mistakes, and teasing the audience, overall lightening the mood between the downbeat songs he�d selected for the show. Eventually he stood up and announced, �Now I�m going to go backstage for a minute. If this was a Fleetwood concert in the �70s you�d know what was going on�� As the audience laughed, he wandered offstage, and returned shortly followed by none other than Fiona Apple. She is a friend of Brion�s and a not-infrequent guest star of his at the Largo, and their mutual rapport was obvious as they played a couple jazz numbers that showed off Apple�s warm, throaty voice. They also played an occasionally fumbled but energetic and engaging version of her song �A Mistake� off her album When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King.

After Apple�s departure, Brion played an encore of requests, including an audience-participation version of �More than a Feeling� and a Thelonius Monk cover that somehow included strains of KISS. Despite the low-key vibe of the show�he often uses more instruments and a looping pedal�it was a night of impressive musical talent on display, and I will definitely return to another show of his at the Largo to see what instruments he plays, what requests he chooses, and to cross my fingers that Kanye shows up as his surprise guest.

Review by Julia Ringo.

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