West Hollywood Roxy

OK, so you can officially throw those [a]Nick Drake[/a] comparisons out of the window.

OK, so you can officially throw those [a]Nick Drake[/a] comparisons out of the window. In the past, [a]Elliott Smith[/a] may have seemed like a mirror image of him – shy and shuffling about the stage, seemingly mortified at the thought of public performance – but tonight he shows that’s definitely ancient history.

Elliott now has a commanding presence. And this from a man whose only companions onstage tonight are a chair and an acoustic guitar. Maybe he’s come to grips with his public persona, or maybe he’s just realised it’s not a crime to move beyond the realm of indie rock. Whatever, [a]Elliott Smith[/a] is finally on the brink of the stardom he richly deserves. Tonight’s star-studded crowd (that’s Edward Norton against the back wall) certainly agree.

He opens with a handful of tracks from his excellent new ‘Figure 8’ album, including ‘Pretty Mary K’ and the Beatles-y pop of ‘Happiness’. Immediately you’re struck by the changes – Elliott now exhibits the strident passion of ‘After The Gold Rush’-era Neil Young, while ‘Son Of Sam’ could be Tim Hardin in his finest hour.

But it’s not just the new songs. Elliott delves into his back catalogue with a fresh intensity, as if he’s discovering these tunes for the first time. ‘Waltz #2’ is dazzling, ‘The Ballad Of Big Nothing’ positively epic and even semi-obscure songs like ‘Division Day’ are greeted with new enthusiasm. In some ways, it’s curious that Elliott chooses to play Big Star‘s ‘Nighttime’, as his new persona is completely at odds with the fucked-up, bleak desolation of the original. Still, like the rest of tonight’s show, it is nothing short of brilliant, and reminds you once again that Elliott richly deserves a position alongside his idol Alex Chilton in the folk’n’roll hall of fame.