By Christian Nicholson
live pic by Elizabeth Faris
It seemed to me, Thursday (1-20-2011) at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, Jonathan Colton took a few tunes to warm into his set. Or maybe it took me a few tunes to get over his song "I Hate California." Once we got past the hurdle, it was a fantastic show.
To be fair, you can't really take most of JoCo's tunes at face value and despite the title and the refrain, its not a song about really hating California, its a song about losing someone to California. Or more honestly, about losing someone over factors beyond both of your control. Home is where home is. A first I thought it was arrogance that made him play the tune, but if its much in the way of autobiography I think he's struggling with finding closure on the thing. Playing it, especially in California, is a way for him to acheive catharsis. And I can get behind that. Deeply personal songs couched in geeky metaphor, or not, is why we love Jonathan Colton's music.
He was smart to include it at the beginning of the set, I think, because he gets to "get this out of the way" and move on with a fantastic set, and the crowd was still warmed from the excellent opening act of Paul and Storm.
Paul and Storm were excllent, btw, and a perfect choice to open for JoCo. They did everything you can ask ofa opening band, and more (including coming back to sing backup on a few of Colton's tunes.). P and S are a comedy duo who include music in their bit, whereas Jonathon Colton is a musician who also happens to be pretty funny.
Towards the middle of the set Colton, threw in a few news tunes from his forthcoming album, He called it medicine. He has the rare gift of creating songs you can hear once and already like. He writes strong melodies and has intelligent lyrics. I'm glad to hear new stuff. It means a vibrant artist cares abou longetivty, even if it means I don't get to hear tunes like "I'm your moon." After the new tunes, Colton turned back to wellknown live performance classics like "Mr. Fancy Pants" and "Future Soon." By the time he got to the new tunes he was fully warmed up and engaging the crowd with a kind of peerless connction. The crowd was, as you might expect, packed the gills with geeks of various stripes. Few crowds are as friendly and engaging as a geek crowd particpating in the act for tunes like "Re: Your Brains." Jonathan seemed to having as much fun as the we were by the time he played his encore with the backing Paul and Storm.
He may have started the set hating California, but at the end, he was loving it.