Saturday, June 8, 2013

Jim’s Big Ego at Amazing Things Arts Center, 6-1-13 Concert Review

Jim's Big Ego performing "Background Vocals"

There’s really no one else in the world quite like Jim Infantino. His take on reality has always been singular, interesting, and usually completely hilarious. He has also always struck me as one of the most intelligent songwriters, though not afraid of venturing into quite silly territory. He has recorded some great albums, both solo and with his band, Jim’s Big Ego (and of course back in the day with End Construction). His most recent release, last year’s Stay, is possibly the band’s best. However, I’ve always thought it is during his live performances that he really shines. Partly it’s because his face is so expressive (and again, usually completely hilarious). I mean, sure, “Trust This Face” is a good song. No question. But when you actually see his face it becomes funny on a whole other level.

The band backing him these days is really excellent. The keyboardist, Josh Kantor, is known to a lot of folks in Boston as he’s the official organist at Fenway Park. Fortunately, the Red Sox were out of town on June 1st, so Josh was able to make the gig at Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham. When Jim introduced the band after the first song, he jokingly only introduced Josh. He then later introduced Jesse Flack on upright bass and Dan Cantor on drums.

The first set included some staples, including “Big Old Dark Green Car” (which was re-recorded for the newest CD) and “She’s Dead.” This night he changed the line to “One guy told me it was a zombie attack” (which was perfect, as the song followed the wonderful zombie love song “You’re Delicious”).

Before the end of the first set, Jim explained how the “Napkin Poetry” segment works. Folks in the audience write short phrases or thoughts on napkins (or in the case this night, small pieces of paper), and then the band improvises a song from what is written. So during the short set break someone from the venue placed a box of paper and pens on the stage.  I couldn’t help myself. I ended up taking a small stack of paper and writing several phrases, including “Dangerous toenails,” “Frightened into flatulence,” “Recycle my bones” and “Spelling always counts! Spelling always counts!” I admit, there is a kind of thrill hearing Jim make a song out of something you’ve written.

He opened the second set by performing a couple of songs solo: “Trust This Face” (the title track from an early cassette) and “At My Funeral,” one I don’t think I’ve heard him perform in nearly twenty years. (My friend Theresa said it was one of her favorites.) Then the band joined him for “Asshole,” always a crowd favorite.

A little later in the set Jim collected all the bits of paper from the stage, and the band did the “Napkin Poetry” song. Someone worked a friend’s birthday into the song. Someone else wrote a line from one of Jim’s songs, “Rita.” And someone else (or perhaps the same person – who knows?) wrote a bit of “3,000 Miles,” a song by fellow End Construction member Ellis Paul. (After the show Jim told me he thought I’d written that, since I had come from Los Angeles.)

After “Napkin Poetry,” the band went into “Cut Off Your Head,” a request. Jim sang “So why not try decapitation?” instead of the album’s line “So why not try some amputation?” Jim’s Big Ego ended the set with another request, the always-fun “Meanies” (which has long been a favorite of mine).

They came out for one encore, “Los Angeles,” which they performed unmiked in front of the stage. Josh was on piano for this one.

Set List

Set I
  1. Background Vocals
  2. Free (And On Our Own)
  3. Big Old Dark Green Car
  4. You’re Delicious
  5. She’s Dead >
  6. Yellow >
  7. She’s Dead
  8. Everything Must Go
  9. In My Cult
  10. Another Thousand Years
  11. 404 Blues
  12. International
Set II
  1. Trust This Face
  2. At My Funeral
  3. Asshole
  4. Just Like Me
  5. Pascagoula Pawn & Gun
  6. Napkin Poetry
  7. Cut Off Your Head
  8. After The Tornado
  9. Stress
  10. Meanies
  1. Los Angeles
Jim's Big Ego performing "In My Cult"
Jim's Big Ego performing "In My Cult"
Jim's Big Ego performing "404 Blues"

Jim Infantino performing "Trust This Face"

Jim's Big Ego performing "Napkin Poetry"

Jim's Big Ego performing "Cut Off Your Head"
"Sometimes I just stick my thumb in a peach and leave it there"
Jim's Big Ego performing "Meanies," 6-1-13

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