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flag US - Oregon - Full Moon 45 - 06/16/00

Elliott Smith
La Zona Rosa, Austin TX, 06.05.2000

Better late than never would have to be my lesson with Elliott Smith, who up until getting the orange promo copy of Figure 8 (which actually sat under piles of office papers for far too long before being unearthed; would it ever arrive? I kept asking, even in its presence) and then a few days later the solitary ticket for Saturday's show, I had never had the pleasure previously. And even up until showtime, I was not certain if I would even enjoy myself at the show. The new songs were exceptionally well-crafted and catchy, with a distinct seventies feel in terms of George Harrison guitar tone, harpsichord flutters, and airy backing vocal tracks, but were they really sinking in fast enough to where I could whisper along the words so devoutly, fingers clutching at imaginary rosaries, like the many others packed up front?

I sat around that night, waiting and waiting for a friend to arrive, one of the many converted who carelessly kept me away from such things as Roman Candle and Either/Or over the years. He shoulda been here an hour ago, what's taking so long? Finally, a quarter after ten, I just up and leave for La Zona Rosa (do I remember how to get there?), lest I miss the entire show. Parking was not so bad, being far enough removed from Sixth and Fourth Street proximities, and I walked through the gates far after Whiskey Biscuit, and right into the screams for a fade-to-black stage. I can't stand being at shows by myself, although this particular night offers many people to run into, and some are zealous worshippers, while others are more like me: "Free ticket, fuck it." It takes me the first song (one I remember from college radio years ago, as I wondered something insane like, "geez, this sounds like new Joe Jackson" a compliment for sure, but an insight never actualized at the record counter) to get situated with drink and smoke, and then the band (full and fleshed out) goes into the opening notes of Son of Sam, which might be one of the only redeeming numbers for old fans off the new record. Most of the songs in tonight's set are off of Figure 8, which is great for me, being a newcomer, but for the dedicated, it's more of a challenge, as darkly-lit late-night four-track vespers hardly get ennunciated under the stage lights. There is a palpable disappointment from some of the crowd, but it seems to be normal for demanding consumers (play the hits, and no surprises, bub). But aside from covers of late Beatles, I Me Mine, and last song, Big Star's Thirteen, the show's peaks are mostly dead-on reproductions of the well-crafted sounds from the record. The piano really does sound honky-tonkish on Lost and Found and the backing vocals by Quasi members are as clear and sweet as on disc itself. Smith utters few words the whole night, and is stiff as a starch shirt, even when pulling out some very sweet leads on the guitar. In the end, I find myself going back to the new record more and more, and find the show to diminish a bit in this light. Discs stay fresher in pop, and subsequent shows mostly attempt to replicate that feat. That's what fans want, I guess. I do know that I can not find a kindred soul who shares in the delights of the new album. Everyone wants the old stuff, the safe stuff. Never.

Copyright © 2000 Andy Beta e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Elliott Smith articles/reviews: 1969-2003, Seattle 28.02.00 + Portland 29.02.00, XO, the Hamburger interview.

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