I have a few rules to my top ten lists, one is that no artist can appear more than once. Surprisingly for a procrastinator like myself, I’d already made mine for this year, but after this show I replaced Jon Dee Graham’s show back in June with tonight’s. It seems impossible, but every show he plays is better than the one before. The next day that belief was confirmed when a patron told me that he had run into another audience member that morning who looked at him with disbelief and asked, “was that show as amazing as I thought it was?” already knowing the answer.
Graham is great with a band, but he may be even better solo. There’s so much emotion channeled into that voice and that guitar. He said after that he had consciously played songs that he doesn’t usually play at the house, and “Robot Moving,” with its correct use of the word irony, was evidence of that. I’d never heard the story behind that one, but it was a good one. He’d received a card from his sister who had obviously commissioned her unwilling son to do the artwork. Amidst a field of “angry” Christmas trees was a tiny silver stick figure with the label “robot.” “Thank you,” he’d declared emphatically upon receiving it and that inspired a song, awesome. He also went back into his catalog for the unabashedly romantic “Majestic of Love.” There was plenty of new fare from this year’s Garage Sale, like the equally heart-tugging “Yes, Yes,” the surprisingly upbeat “Orphan” and the haunted “Codeine/Codine.”
I love all his songs but there are a few I’ll admit to loving more than the rest. One is “October,” the ferocious rocker from Summerland. That was the record he was touring behind when I first saw him, so there’s always been something special about it. Also, my birthday is on October which seems special too. There have been shows were he hasn’t played the song he knows is my favorite, and that’s OK, but when he does play it, well, I’ve been known to get a little emotional. Tonight as he strummed the chords that make up “I’ll Wait,” the precursor to his stunning “Airplane,” I could already feel the emotion. By the time he got to the first chorus it was undeniable. Another longtime fan stood next to me, “I’m glad I’m not the only one crying,” she whispered to me. At the end of the night I told Graham he’d made Sue and I cry, “good” was his response. I think he wants people to feel as much as he does.