“Sing You Fuckers!” Jon Brion New Year’s Chicago


Warning: Much as I don’t want to be the “This is how you should behave at a Jon show” guy, there’s going to be a lot of that. New Year’s Eve seems to be the only day of the year, where I’m the most mature guy in the room, and I hate when people make me feel that way.

1. Ratings

Jon Music: This show wasn’t really about music. If you hear mp3s of the show, well I’m guessing that most of it’s going to sound like The Who’s tragic Cincinnati show. It wasn’t really a show so much as it was a brawl.

Jon Humor: A+ totally on. Jon was really gracious and funny tonight and thank god because there was a ton of ugliness.

70% of the crowd B

20% of the crowd D

10% of the crowd including the dude that I was sitting next to F

I hate to seem like a jaded dude that isn’t happy unless he’s the only guy who can get into Largo, but the way some of the crowd dealt with the show really irritated me. The idea is to let Jon be the show, call your requests out with some dignity and listen to the music. Too many people tonight treated Jon like a performing seal and that annoys the hell out of me because the point should be the music, and a huge percentage of the people were more intent on being the show or making the show only be about them. I’ll list the worst offenders below.

2. Drunks

On the way to the show, I chatted with a bunch of drunk 17 year old kids, who couldn’t fathom that I never drank in high school. When they asked me why, I didn’t really have an answer for them, but of course, by the end of the night I remembered. Drunks are wicked annoying. I could go into why I partied better than most people tonight, but really all you need to do is listen to Bill Hicks’ routine where he compares weed to liquor. Apologies to you drinkers who were cool, but seeing a drunk girl in a party dress doing a face plant on the ice after the show is the kind of stuff that really brings me down. People – take David Lee Roth’s advice “You really need to know how to craft your buzz.”

3. Person partially to blame for the drunken brawl – hilariously enough Jon Brion.

Jon was so happy that people came and felt responsible for the high ticket prices so he encouraged them to down as much of the free champagne as possible. As inspiration Jon relayed a story about seeing the Faces in their prime giving out booze to their fans and having a special bar on stage for the band.

Maybe it has always been Jon’s dream to play a drunken soccer match, and if so he got it. At one point, he compared the people surging to the stage with requests to Price is Right contestants, and we all know how crazy those fuckers are.

4. Jon’s Goal

Jon actually invoked my favorite all time concert experience. During Elvis Costello’s mid 80’s Blood and Chocolates tour, he did a spinning song book night with the Attractions. There was a big spinning wheel with most of Elvis’ bigger songs and some covers and he invited people from the crowd to spin and played whatever came up. It’s cool to know that Jon loved that tour too, and it really explains a lot about how his Largo shows eventually evolved.

John tried to replicate Elvis’ wheel with one of those magic market boards that you probably have at work. Essentially, there were so many people, screaming out songs over and over again that it was impossible for Jon to hear a thing over the collective roar. He tried having his roadie pick some people out of the crowd to put some songs and artists up on the board. This worked for a while, until sadly the drunks who weren’t getting enough attention by just being loud and drunk, took matters into their own hands and just charged the stage. I really felt bad for Jon, but he handled it as well as possible.

5. The New Year

At the strike of midnight Jon started playing Auld Lang Syne on the organ, about two thirds of the way through he yelled out a boozy “Sing You Fuckers!”

6. The night’s most amusing moment for me – Jon still hates ELO.

I wish I could talk to Jon about this, but he never fails to amuse me with his refusals to play ELO. I think that people really find a lot of similarities between Jeff Lynne and Jon and just assume that Jon will waltz out and play Mr. Blue Sky, but take it from me that will never happen.

The first time I noticed this was at Largo when I requested Evil Woman as a joke and Jon played the intro, agreed with me that it was a joke and moved on.

I actually discussed this with Flanagan at one point, and it became our personal in joke (I’m sure he doesn’t remember this, but it got me into Largo a few times for free.) I’d walk up to him and mention ELO and he’d laughingly say something like “Can’t we just have a wee bit of respect for the talents of Jeff Lynne?”

Tonight about 8 people chanted ELO out together, which was an effective strategy. Jon responded by playing about 30 seconds of something ELO ish and then saying something to the effect of “That’s the last of that crap you’ll be hearing for the night.”

Jon definitely still doesn’t like ELO.

7. Jon on Al Queda

Jon noticed that in response to the impossibility of him hearing a request by one person that the crowd began teaming up like the ELO group.

Jon: See, now you’re learning, you’re forming cells like Al Queda!

8. Jon on the current administration

I’m not a big Neil Young fan so I’m not really that familiar with the song Cortez the Killer. About half way through Jon made George Bush the killer, by the end he was singing something like “Karl Rove … terrorizing the countryside.”

9. Musical Highlight – Improvised Bruce Springsteen parody

There are going to be at least 300 people out there who think Jon played Born to Run or some other Springsteen song, but he was just vamping and making up absurd Springsteen like lyrics. It wasn’t Tweeter and the Monkey Man brilliant, but it was very amusing. The only song of the night that I’m really dying to hear if it gets bootlegged.

The one line I caught was him singing was something about making love in both the front seat and then the back seat of a Buick. There was also stuff about how he was from Jersey and how much he loved being from Jersey. Earlier in the show, Jon mentioned that he was from Jersey too, but he never really felt the need to sing about it. Again, Jon was really funny and charming tonight. Not many people there were paying attention though.

10. The biggest problem

Loud drunks who insisted upon screaming their request at the top of their lungs over and over again. This was bad enough early, but it really got bad late. Everything Jon was going to play was up there on that blackboard, he had stopped taking requests, but the drunks failed to realize this and persisted with their cries.

Idiocy First Prize – This dude actually was next to me at the beginning of the night before I moved and was easily the biggest most annoying jerk of the night.

Basically, he was really impressed with his perception of his cleverness. His request and he made it at least 50 times at the top of his lungs was “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk in the style of Randy Newman.” Not content to be annoying between songs this dude was raving during them. Assmuch, get a clue the whole night isn’t about you.

Here’s where I become a dick – eventually the guy said something like “We really need him to play Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk ….” I cut him off and said “Actually, what we need to do is have you shut the fuck up.” Was that rude?

I got a couple pats on the back for that so probably not.

He, of course, didn’t shut up.

Here’s the silliest move of the night. I tried to rationally explain to him why he should shut up. Using reason on drunks is a complete waste of time – I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking. “Dude, he heard you, I’ve never seen him play a Rufus Wainwright song, I think they had a falling out, he’s not going to play it and you’re really annoying about half of the crowd.” This of course did absolutely no good, I’m not sure even what I was thinking.

Eventually, Jon sang Randy Newman’s Sail Away and he sort of shut up. I’d like to think that Jon was sarcastically putting the guy down by singing an ironic song about Slavery, but he’s probably way too nice and if that was his intent, it was definitely lost on just about everyone else.

Runner Up: Really drunk girl, who effectively screamed “Play Waterloo Sunset” 50 times after Jon stopped taking requests for the night. The drunks didn’t really seem to understand the blackboard concept.

11. Low light of the night – Lithium practically became a brawl.

Again, mostly Jon’s fault. He started by announcing that the first drummer that made it on to the stage would get to participate. If you don’t remember, this was basically how they used to begin XFL games. Jon was then joined by the Autumn Defense guys who had played earlier in the night on piano and bass.

After the first verse, it got really ugly. Jon tells the crowd, “Someone come up here and sing the second verse, but only if you really know the second verse by heart. Don’t come up here unless you own the second verse.”

The people who came on stage sadly did not own the second verse. A goth looking kid came on stage and failed miserably. He got booed and spent the rest of the song pogo-ing across the stage, which was either his response to the boos or just a really immature way to add to his failure to own the second verse.

Then a girl tried and failed to manage to utter a single word. Jon mocked the crowd for thinking that lyrics were easy to remember on stage, while the girl protested that she was nervous. Finally, a kid sang a some what accurate version of verse two, enough to get to the chorus at least, where all three of them decided to take advantage of the fact that they sort of remembered how to scream “Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh” at the top of their lungs.

It really wasn’t music it was more like an English Soccer Riot. It wasn’t funny, fun, or anything else, and like I’ve said I really felt like Jon was being treated like a performing seal.

12. Singalongs – 2 and they were both pretty brutal – if someone recorded this show, I don’t think I’ll have the stomach to even listen to them.

I was even partially responsible for both, as I told a bunch of people before the show that I’d seen Jon do both Bohemian Rhapsody and God Only Knows with the audience at Largo and he wound up doing both of them. Bohemian Rhapsody fell apart during the operetta portion and God Only Knows was even worse. Way too much to ask of this crowd and Jon just sort of limped his way through Brian Wilson’s greatest song.

Here’s a first: Whoever bootlegs this – Please just delete God Only Knows. Erase the fucker. No real fan of Jon’s wants to hear it, and it would suck for people to think that this was representative of Jon’s shows.

13. The encore

Thirty seconds of Ragtime piano followed by Jon fleeing the stage faster than the Beatles did in the South after John made his “we’re bigger than Jesus” comments. Jon was gracious, but I think he knew that the whole night had gotten a little out of hand. He played until about 1:45.

14. Best story of the night

Jon talked about seeing Cary Grant’s speaking tour towards the end of the movie star’s life. Grant apparently did one for his daughter and enjoyed it so much that he went on a little mini-tour. Here’s Jon’s description:

“A screen came down and showed a montage of Cary Grant kissing almost every single beautiful actress in Hollywood history, followed by another montage of Cary getting slapped by almost every single beautiful actress in Hollywood history. Then the lights came up and he answered questions for an hour. It was the coolest fucking thing ever.”

15. I love hearing Jon Brion curse

There’s something innocent and beautiful about Jon’s use of the word fucking as an adjective, and he’s usually good for at least two wonderful motherfuckers a night.

16. The short 12/31 set

Britt Daniel of Spoon was in town and showed up early to play two of his songs. Followed by Jon bringing the Autumn Defense guys on stage to help him and Britt do the Beatles I Feel Fine. It was pretty energetic and there was a little guitar joking going on between Jon and Britt as they traded short solo bursts.

John Stirratt and Pat Sansone then did a short Autumn Defense set. No disrespect, but I wasn’t into it at all, it was kind of like Simon and Garfunkel on their limpest day. At one point one of the guys basically apologized – something like “I know that none of you came here planning to ring in the new year with Stool rock, but indulge us for a while.”

Jon came back out and they all performed a Yacht Rock Hall of Fame version of Bob Welch’s Sentimental Lady. It was pretty odd, because much as Jon would sing it in an ironic, “aside from its cheesiness, it’s actually kind of a pretty song” way, Stirratt and Sansone sang it with no irony whatsoever, their performance of the song was completely sincere, which I actually found to be sort of creepy.

Do Autumn Defense have really loyal angry fans? I just wasn’t into it.

Jon had like ten minutes to kill before sending the audience out to get liquored up from 11:00 to 11:45 and played a decent version of I Was Happy with You, that reminded me that one of the things I love about Jon is that he may be the only man alive more romantically bitter in the world than I am. I’m going to write a whole piece on this later so stay tuned.

17. Guitars and Brett’s birthday.

Jon’s roadie was a guy named Brett who was born on 1/1 and Jon followed Auld Lang Syne with a pretty straight version of Happy Birthday.

Jon’s Les Paul seems to be history, god knows he beat on that poor thing. Jon played a Gibson ES-335, which looked almost identical to the one I own. He also seems to have purchased a sick straight off of Eddie Cochran’s tour bus Gretsch Country Gentleman, G brand and all. I couldn’t tell whether it was a new guitar or a vintage one, but just looking at it made me cream my pants.

The third guitar was the Fender that he plays that’s an octave lower than a regular guitar – basically the kind you hear on surf instrumentals. Feel free to email me the guitar’s proper name.

Jon actually played this a lot and it made for some interesting sounds. It’s usually a guitar that you pick more than strum, which didn’t stop Jon from lashing into it during the Springsteen parody. At one point, Jon mentioned that his hands felt like Pete Townshend’s, and strumming that guitar as violently as Jon did is pretty much the best way to have that happen.

Jon also used this guitar during a brief version of Buddy Holly’s Words of Love and an interesting recital of Dylan’s Just Like a Woman, which was one of the highlights of the night for me.

18. The rest of the nite

Meaningless, Walking Through Walls, I Believe She’s Lying

At one point I think he went into Alice Cooper’s School’s Out minus the chorus.

There was some Ragtime piano and I think Punch Drunk love

He played Life on Mars

He may have played something interesting on ukulele, It’s 6 am now and I can’t really remember. I plan on reading someone else’s recap and then through the magic of editing acting like I do.

19. It’s really all about Wednesday. Jon is playing Martyrs on Wednesday. I came home and pounced on the tickets. That’s really why I came from Cleveland to be here. Cheers to all the cool people I met tonight and there were a lot. Sorry, for the crankiness. I really try to be the “Hey, I’ve seen him a ton at Largo. You’re going to really have a good time tonight guy,” but I can’t help but feel like Jon fought New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Eve won.

11 Responses to ““Sing You Fuckers!” Jon Brion New Year’s Chicago”

  1. I agree that the Waterloo Sunset girl was a bit over the top and overall, I agree 200% with your assessment of the show…it made the Steppenwolf performance seem much more dignified in comparison, but that is what Jon gets for playing such a huge place on NYE. For some people, NYE it is simply an excuse to get plastered, no matter who is playing or where they are.

  2. it was ugly at times, that’s for sure. too big a place. too many drunks. autumn defense was a train wreck. go to martyrs, it will be better.

  3. I disagree with your assessment of some of the show. I thought both the sing alongs were well over half good. They did sort of lose it at the end, but wtf?

    I was in the 4th row, so I didn’t hear/pay attention to a lot of the shouting for songs behind me.

    Sail Away/Knock Yourself Out were the two songs on the ukulele.

    I am REALLY looking forward to tomorrow.

  4. This is a great recap of the show. I commented to my friend that I felt like I was listening to “Dueling Pianos” at Sluggers or Howl At The Moon. Get drunk, yell requests and not give a shit what the music sounds like. We didn’t even get drinks at the bar during the intermission due to the hoarders and their four-drinks-per-person minimum. And we just wanted Sierra Mist! Jon egging the crowd on wasn’t much fun either.

    Pretty much the only bit of your review that I shook my head at was deleting “God Only Knows” from bootlegs. For some reason, even with the drunks, I really enjoyed that song. Of course, I’m not a big Beach Boys fan, so I don’t know their music well enough to know when it’s being butchered.

    I am looking forward to the Martyrs’ show and REALLY hoping that 90% of the NYE crowd doesn’t show up.

  5. […] note: Brad Laidman has a much more wry, less hazy account of the show, […]

  6. Hey. I think I talked to you a little bit Monday night.

    I sort of disagree with your take on the antics of the evening. I was perfectly sober the whole time (I don’t drink), and I am usually really, really annoyed by drunk folks. But in my opinion, the show was a big messy drunken ball of fun. Sure, it wasn’t as urbane or polite as his usual Largo shows, but it was New Years Eve, and the chaos of the crowd to me said more about people being completely overwhelmed with joy (and booze) than any sort of disrespect to Jon as a performer. I was honestly really happy with the crowd, because I’m so used to shows being full of really cooler-than-cool people who really don’t give half a shit. But it seemed to me that the people who were there, despite being drunk and loud, were really into the show–and I’ll take that over bored quiet hipsters any day.

    (And let me say again: I was definitely NOT one of the drunk loud ones just trying to defend himself).

    Given all that, I will agree that the sound system was pretty lousy, the theater was way too big for the crowd, and the guy yelling for Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk was pretty annoying.

  7. Never saw Jon at Largo, but did manage to see him at Spaceland in L.A.

    Thoughts on NYE:

    Cortez the Killer rocked.

    I think “waterloo sunset”-girl was sitting next to me – she was loaded.

    When I went to the bathroom, security was chasing this guy into the stall while he was trying to barf. Will the Harris Theater will never a host a rock show again?

    Good show, but Martyrs show was even better.

  8. I think this is a bunch of garbage. Both the shows at the Harris theater and Marytrs were amazing. To be able to have those intimate experiences with Jon Brion is unforgettable. That “waterloo sunset” girl loves Jon Brion just as much as all of you pretentious fucks.

  9. The “drunken brawl” you describe barely resembles the amazing show I saw on NYE. Amazing energy, both on stage and in the crowd. I’m not sure what you expect on NYE, but the exuberance of the crowd and even-more-participatory-than-usual nature of the show made for a beautiful, unforgettable night. All of my friends, who had never heard of Jon Brion before I insisted they pay $90 for these damn tickets, were blown away. So calm down.

    And yes, I thought NYE was better than the Martyrs’ show, at which Jon was, of course, very good, but seemed a bit ragged.

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