On a Friday evening at the Coronet Theater's Largo, audience members sit obediently in their seats, fixated on the slightly elevated stage in front. Once the doors to the small theater close, it becomes unusually quiet, save for excited whispers being passed around the room.
Onstage, multi-instrumentalist/composer Jon Brion paces frantically between a drum set, piano and choice of ten guitars, all while humming to himself or pausing to exchange awkward banter with his audience. Like a grown child trapped inside some sort of high-tech toy store, Brion lets his mind—and hands—run wild for the next two hours, producing a spectacular show filled with improvisational gems and jaw-dropping renditions of old classics. Audience members suggest the songs he plays, making for a unique show every time.
Brion has become exceedingly popular due to his contributions to the world of film. He composed the scores for Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia," Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and David O. Russell's "I Heart Huckabees." He is also a celebrated producer who has worked with Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, Elvis Costello and Rufus Wainwright. His first solo album, Meaningless, was released in 2001. A local favorite in Los Angeles, Brion has constituted himself as an important part of Largo's history, having been its residential Friday night headliner for more than a decade.
When Largo moved from its location on Fairfax Avenue to the Coronet Theater on La Cienega Boulevard last year, Brion followed dutifully—and so did the crowds. In new surroundings, he continues to flourish with a set list that relies heavily on audience participation, but also features his own previously recorded works.
During the first half of the set, Brion performs by himself, looping instruments as he goes along to create a one-man band. After quickly running through his more renowned material, such as a selection from "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," he turns to the audience for requests, at which point it becomes a free-for-all. It's clear that the spectators have either seen the show before, or have heard of Brion's ability to perform practically any song in popular music from memory alone. Either way, everyone has brought a song to suggest, and the room is suddenly filled with suggestions—titles of Bob Dylan and Radiohead hits are the most popular ones. Once again, Brion uses the art of looping to perform a mesmerizing cover of The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" and a funky version of David Bowie's "Suffragette City". In the second half of the set, Brion is surrounded by a five-piece band, giving him more freedom as he chooses to play lead guitar on a cover of The Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)".
After the show, Brion meets with fans in the outside lobby of the venue and asks them if they enjoyed the show. From start to finish, the concert is a fantastic experience with unexpected twists and turns that will keep you coming back week after week to enjoy more of what Brion has to offer.