As a record producer, John Simon is probably best known for nursing the American-baroque eccentricities of the Band's first albums. In his own charmingly eccentric solo show at the Largo on Tuesday, he showed in his own music an allegiance to that ultimate bastion of baroque Americana--Tin Pan Alley.
Anyone expecting music like the Band's might have been disappointed. Simon's casual, cabaret approach is really more the stuff of Manhattan hotel lounges than the rock 'n' roll roadhouses that shaped the Band.
Standing at an electronic keyboard or seated at an upright piano, freed by a headset-microphone to sway and bop as he sang, Simon seemed as if he were entertaining guests at his home. Songs long on warmth, whimsy and wit, if short on invention, brought to mind David Frishberg ("crossed with Mr. Rogers," noted one observer) and to a lesser extent, Randy Newman, Tom Lehrer, Jimmy Webb and Van Dyke Parks.
Simon came off a bit dilettantish as a performer (his latest album, "Out on the Street," is his first in more than 20 years), but his spirit was winning. Give this guy a piano bar somewhere and let him loose.