It was extremely fitting that Jon Brion's first night of his Le Poisson Rouge run started off with the multi-instrumentalist/producer/song writer/musical genius idly playing chords from The Wizard Oz soundtrack. A veritable one-man band, Brion seamlessly moves from keys to guitars to drums to the harmonica, all the while layering and looping each component (with the help of a MicroKorg), building the songs right before the audiences' eyes and ears. It's kind of like peeking behind the velvet curtain, and watching the Great and Powerful Oz himself.
There were some technical difficulties on the venue's end, resulting in several "live sound checks" from Brion (who jokingly commented, "when I showed up today, the owner was like 'man, you have a lot of stuff'"), but that was just further proof of Brion's consummate musicianship. To see him perform is to see him create, on the spot, off the top of his head and completely organically: that fluidity that comes so naturally (or seemingly naturally, anyway) makes watching Brion even more exciting than listening to him. His musical red herrings (like teasing the chords to the "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" theme song) are very rarely indications of what will actually come next.
Duplicating the same atmosphere of his long-running weekly residency at Largo in L.A., Brion wove originals like "Ruin My Day" and "She's At It Again" into Duke Ellington standards. He re-worked The Zombies' "This Will Be Our Year" via xylophone, covered Roxy Music's "More Than This," and, in what was the highlight of my week, unexpectedly turned an audience suggestion ("Born in the U.S.A.") into a Prince medley. For an artist who is known for his collaborations (he also did a great version of "Looks Like You," a song he co-wrote with Evan Dando of the Lemonheads) and the roster of talented associates he usually plays with, sometimes it's better when the cameos don't show up. While waiting outside before the show, everyone, myself included, was throwing around names like Aimee Mann, Rufus Wainwright, and of course, Fiona Apple, as potential rumored guests. And while I would've loved to see Brion and Apple do "You Belong to Me" (or anything really, for that matter), I was just as excited to watch him lead the room in "When Doves Cry," at top volume.