It’s no secret I have a bias when it comes to Jason Falkner. As webmistress of the powerpop master’s unofficial website for the past eight years and having attended nearly all of his L.A. shows within that span, I consider myself something of a Falkner connoisseur. It’s a harrowing task having to review one of your favorite artists because you actually have more of a propensity to critique them. There’s no wiggle room; I know full well when Jason is in top form, and when he’s not. What’s more, since Jason spends most of his time producing (just this year he’s completed records with cult favorite Daniel Johnston, Dutch artist Anne Soldaat and put out his own self-produced album, All Quiet on the Noise Floor), he only plays a handful of shows any given year—most of which are in Japan, to the vexation of his loyal local following. An L.A. show has become something of a sacred event, so it was no surprise that Saturday’s sold-out show at Spaceland was as packed as I’ve ever seen. Opener buzz artist Nico Stai pulled in quite a draw and primed the crowd with his no nonsense rockage.
Admittedly, I was nervous when Jason took to the stage, knowing that as a working reporter for the evening I had to be brutally honest, no matter what. A third of the way through opening song “Honey” from his sophomore album Can You Still Feel?, I knew I need not fear a thing. The band was the tightest I’ve heard in nearly a decade. Jason is known for an ever-revolving roster of backing band mates (save for steadfast drummer Petur Smith, who’s commanded the kit since 2005), but this time all familiar faces graced the stage with guitarist Andy Blunda, who joined on last year, and bassist Jeff Lee from the 2005 lineup along with Smith. But it wasn’t just about the band. Unabashed about hitting those album-perfect high notes on the vocals and delivering guitar solos with abandon, Jason gave a rejuvenating performance compared to his more cautiously subdued performances of recent years—as noted after the show by his brother Ryan (aka Beck’s spazzo dance man, Juice). The set was chock full of goodies off his new album, which is currently only available as a Japanese import. Tunes like “Emotion Machine,” “Evangeline” and “Counting Sheep” seemed already familiar to plenty of audience members, as did Be Bop Deluxe cover “Jet Silver and the Dolls of Venus” and resurrected early ’90s demo “My Home is Not a House” from his days with The Grays (Jon Brion, Buddy Judge, Dan McCarroll). He also pulled out rarely performed chestnuts “Hectified” from his 1996 debut Author Unknown and “The Plan” from his sophomore 1999 release. Upon his return from a brief tour of Japan and Shanghai, Jason plans another L.A. appearance at the Echo in December. Take it from me, bias notwithstanding, it will be a good one.