With the early part of the tour supporting his new “King of Yesterday” disc (Maverick) canceled due to illness and new dates not due to start for a few weeks, Jude returned to the Los Angeles club where he got his start. Performing before a crowd obviously enthralled by a chance to hail the returning hero, the singer delivered a relaxed, if ramshackle, 90-minute set.
If you weren’t a member of the club before you showed up, you weren’t when you left; the performance and songs were pleasant but unremarkable. For once the friendly confines of Largo felt more insular than intimate.
Impishly handsome, Jude connects with the crowd, confidently joking and parrying their friendly heckling. His light vocals are pleasant, moving between two modes: a lower range he uses to deliver clipped Dylan-esque machine gun imagery and a falsetto that recalls Jeff Buckley.
But the songs, meant to be wry takes on the record industry (“Cuba”), celebrity culture (“Sit Ups”) and country music (“Gay Cowboy”), are only wanly humorous and can’t hide the attitude at their center. As comfortably middle of the road as underbaked ’70s pop such as Bread (Jude covers the group’s “Everything I Own”), its combination of taste and self-congratulation is as stultifyingly smug as Dave Eggers and McSweeney’s.
When he sings “they’re just mediocre men of the hour” (from “Charlie Says”), thinking he’s making some trenchant comment on society, he’s ultimately talking about himself.