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wednesday april 15 1998 middle east, cambridge, massachusetts


My pal Billy Zilla and I have mentioned the brilliant young singer-
songwriter Elliott Smith many times in our notes here, and I thought
that some of our cyber-friends might enjoy reading some notes from my
attendance at Elliott's concert here in Cambridge tonight.

There is something absolutely enthralling about Elliott's voice.
Those of you who saw the film Good Will Hunting will recognize him as
the man behind the Oscar (tm) nominated song "Miss Misery." He did NOT
perform that tonight, said he didn't deserve to win, and claimed Celine
was "really very nice ... she surprised me" (!) Nobody asked him what
Madonna was like.

Elliott's voice ... the images the sound of it summons upin my mind
... ebbing firelight glimmering over the dusky black opals of a duchess's
parure ... fresh-faced boys skinny-dipping around a stream in a Maine
summer, the sunlight playing over brilliant smiles and innocent splashes
... auburn tinctures gleaming in the piled tresses of an ancient Irish
queen. His lyrics range from aching poetry to matter-of-fact statements
of modern romance with all its angst and tangle of deferred pleasures.
"Situations get f*cked up ... you feel like sh*t the morning after" is
one particularly compelling lyric. Ellio himself is boyish, self-effacing,
awesomely gifted ... picking out elaborate counterpoints to his songs
with amazingly casual grace. I particularly loved his bass notes, actually.
Thanks to the excellent acoustics at the Middle East (a club he played here
in Cambridge several years ago) I heard every note despite the continuous
shrieking of the barflies clustered around the Turkey Hill bottles in the
back of the room.

At one point people yelled for him to stand up (he was crouching on a stool,
so I hardly ever got to see his face ... a Rastafarian with one of those
huge woollen caps was planted right in front of where he was sitting)and
he replied, "I can't, I don't have a strap." That got a laugh. Elliott
smiled gently. At another point he played a song composed by Alex Chilton
and afterwards Alex himself got up from the front row and gave Elliott a
big hug and a high-five. Instead of returning the high-five, Elliott
sweetly clasped Alex's hand. I found this touching but it was a little too
"sensitive" for the girls in front of me.

At another point several people were yelling for Elliott to play a song
called Lady Jane (?) and he kept pretending he couldn't hear them.

"Waiting the train? Something to blame? What's that?"

It was really wonderful to be in the presence of someone so dedicated to
music, poetry, and art. Someone who has had a success but hasn't been
fazed by all the crap churned out by the media that makes this country
what it is. Someone who is cute and talented but unpretentious and sweet,
too. I needed this concert and my ONE regret is that he isn't around for
another set tomorrow night!