Jojo came to East Nashville 2/20 & 2/21 for a two night stay. With Tommy in tow and Phil Kaufman working the door part time for his old pal, the first night kicked off on a mellow note with Jonathan more quiet than usual. The dancing, banter and marvel were there, but Jonathan seemed a little preoccupied. He played a straight 1 hour and 45 minute set including most of the hits, but focusing elsewhere, which I appreciated because honestly listening to a crowd of people who showed up for “Pablo Picasso” yelling gets a little old after the years. He spent most of the night switching back and forth between French, Spanish and working on his Italian, which is getting quite good! One of the of the highlights of the night had to be when he did his famous version of “Let her go into the darkness” with the spoken part in Spanish, French, Italian and Hebrew with a concluding observation of “Gee, it’s hard all over, I guess.” Not wanting to do an encore, Jonathan ran out into the crowd as if to avoid the topic. When he realized he wasn’t getting away so easily he improvised in a way that became the highlight of the night. After a shake of his head he started to sing the old standard “Volare” a capella while standing in the middle of the crowd and encouraged a sing along, which turned out to be a magical ending.
After the show, Tommy and Jonathan decided to head to the other side of town for a little karaoke at local bar The Springwater, which is an old Nashville dive that Jimmy Hoffa used to run numbers out of and Steve Earle had many a wedding reception among the crusty floors and ceiling yellowed by eighty years of debauchery. As soon as Jonathan and Tommy showed, Jonathan had to leave because he was having a discussion with the misses over the phone, which explained his somewhat gloomy disposition. Tommy stayed until 3 and relayed a great story of when they met Tom Waits at Redding. According to Tommy, they were sitting under a tree when they saw Waits in the distance. As they watched him, Waits started to walk towards them and stuck out his hand to an awe struck Jonathan telling him, “I like your songs” Jonathan replied, “I like your songs” with the three of them stuck in this awkward, but mystical moment.
The second night found Jonathan back in good spirits. It seemed his thoughts were racing so fast that multiple times he would stop a song in the middle and think of something else, sing it in French, want to come back to it, or think it was “just plain too slow.” Tonight he was really focusing on the dancing. About an hour into the show you could see he was really having a good time. I hadn’t seen him with that kind of energy onstage in a long while. He started asking what the crowd wanted to hear and decided he liked “Cosi Veloce” the best after the crowd attempted for “New England” (he looked at the girl and said, “No, we can’t do that one”) and “That Summer Feeling” (he actually hadn’t done it either night, surprisingly), “only because it so warm today”, the fan explained. He ended up doing the song after, but a short version with little interest in it. My personal favorite request was, “Do a monologue about Bermuda!” which was damn funny and Jonathan laughed right along. My favorite moment of the night though was when he started to talk about how he sometimes thinks of himself as a country boy…..and started into “When she started to ride.” As many times as I’ve seen Jojo, I’ve never heard him do that song. Don’t know if it was a little Nashville treat, but it didn’t matter. He finished out the night with “Give Paris one more chance” and jumped up for an encore with another verse.
Melodramatic as it may be, I walked outside the next morning and a magnolia tree in my yard was blooming. Considering just a few days before Nashville had nighttime lows in the teens, my first thought was that Jonathan must have brought the spring before he and Tommy headed off to Memphis.