A joyous and prolific talent...

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Dublin Red Box

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Dublin Red Box

Back in his ‘best kept secret’ days, Portland, Oregon‘s [a]Elliott Smith[/a] played to 200 willingly sweaty indie-kids in a discreet Dublin cubby-hole.

Three years on, and Elliott‘s exclusive Dublin fan club now counts well over one and a half thousand subscribers, each one of them uncomfortably sardined into the Red Box. Those crammed at the back, stretch their eyes and ears above the heaving jet-packed worshippers up front. And worshippers they are, hanging onto every strum, every impressionistic glance at Elliott‘s world of coffee-bar observation.

Being the first night of his European tour, he appears jet-lagged. Long greasy strands of hair stick to his face and what looks like the embryonic stage in a spectacular handlebar moustache ensemble glistens spookily around his mouth. But then, Elliott has a perennially jet-lagged demeanour, unfussed by celebrity and not fazed by pop-stardom. His songs do the talking though, hazy, woozy, boozy songs where it’s always summer, always time for a beer always time to watch time go by. That said, Smith seems infinitely more at ease onstage these days. Maybe he’s getting used to adoration, as a smile cracks his lethargic face with every proclamation of love from the audience. And there are quite a few.

Even backed by a fully electric accompaniment, Elliott‘s world is one intimate whispers and hushed harmonies. Unlike the singer-songwriters with whom he’s oft aligned, he doesn’t need an aching whine to express himself, instead favouring the soft-focus folk approach. But there’s a fullness to the sound now, perhaps demanded by the lush quality of his fifth and most recent album, ‘Figure 8’. The Beatles-esque ‘Happiness’, the rippling uptempo pop of ‘Son of Sam’ and the bittersweet lament of ‘Easy Way Out’ all tumble towards us with jazzy feelgood piano arrangements and giddy melodies. He returns for an acoustic finale and ‘Say Yes’, from the ‘Good Will Hunting’ soundtrack, is thrown in for the trainspotters’ delight.

Maybe next time, the powers that be will see fit to place Elliott in a more conducive environment, one where you can actually hear, see and breath, because [a]Elliott Smith[/a] is a joyous and prolific talent, and really should be savoured to the max.