San Francisco Fillmore Auditorium

Loved by the lost and the lonely and anyone who ever had a heart broken...

He looks like a ’70s Soviet footballer and is celebrated by the sort of hipster doofuses who wear Lokomotiv Leipzig shirts. Or the American equivalent, which tonight appear to be Gap t-shirts with iron-on numbers. [a]Elliott Smith[/a] is a cult favourite, loved by the lost and the lonely and anyone who ever had a heart (broken).

It couldn’t last long. Others must be curious as to what The White Album would have sounded like if Lennon had McCartney‘s ear for a tune. Sure enough, the Fillmore is sold out for two nights and some of these people have seen Good Will Hunting. Outside, the ticketless clutch skateboards and beg spares from under woolly hats.

There is little acknowledgement of impending fame from the stage. The opening ‘Cupid’s Trick’, then ‘Son of Sam’, prove Smith’s band to be tight pub rock-troupers, nothing flash, oh no. It’s ten songs in before he says a word and can’t even hear that. ‘Miss Misery’ – his Hollywood shove into the big time – is naturally omitted, while the dirty corners of the back catalogue are swabbed.

On the ‘Either/Or’ album, the fantastic ‘Alameda’ and the equally stirring set-closer ‘Ballad of Big Nothing’ are all plinky-plonk guitar, rinky-tink piano, hand-over-mouth vocals and underwater drums . They still are, and the great news is that live, stripped of strings and harmonies, the new ‘Figure 8’ stuff sounds just like that as well.

He takes off his guitar for ‘In the Lost and Found’ and turns his back as the piano builds up to the final chorus. A long-neck Bud dangles from his fingers as he asks for indulgence: [I]”Don’t go home Angelina/stay with me/ hanging around the lost and found”[/I].

[a]Elliott Smith[/a] may have new fans and a new sound, but on this form old friends shouldn’t leave him alone at the bar just yet.