Friday, January 6, 2017

Ellis Paul at Club Passim, 12-30-16 Concert Review

Ellis Paul performing "Scarecrow In A Corn Maze"
Ellis Paul has been helping folks bring in the New Year at Club Passim for many years now, and this year's New Year's Eve run was part of the celebration of twenty-five years as a professional musician (he'd performed and recorded for a couple of years before that, while still holding down another job). He did two shows on December 30th and two on the 31st. I caught the early show on the 30th. He wasn't feeling all that good, and so wasn't able to give a full-force performance, but Ellis, even at in his weaker moments, is still better than most artists at their best. And he got some help from a willing and enthusiastic audience.

After a really good opening set by Christopher Williams, Ellis Paul took the stage at 7:47 p.m. He told the audience, "Now listen, I caught the plague today," and then started the set solo, playing "I Ain't No Jesus" and "The World Ain't Slowin' Down," the latter of which was performed unmiked in the middle of the audience. Because of his cold, he asked the audience to sing "the whole damn thing," which they happily did. Not that Ellis wasn't singing, of course. After the first chorus, he added, "It keeps spinning and spinning, and suddenly you've done this for twenty-five years."

The band then joined him on stage, with Christopher Williams on percussion and backing vocals, Radoslav Lorkovic on keyboard and backing vocals, and David Glaser on guitar and backing vocals. In introducing "Maria's Beautiful Mess" (one of my favorites), Ellis said: "You're going to have to sing with me. This one's gonna hurt." And yes, he had trouble singing it, but got a lot of support from the audience. Laurie MacAllister (from the band Red Molly) then joined them on backing vocals, and they did "Kick Out The Lights," with the crowd singing its parts. Laurie sang lead on the second verse. Radoslav was hilarious and delightful on keys, leading Ellis to joke, "He's paid by the note." The song actually became a good jam, which was a wonderful surprise.

David switched to the electric mandolin for a sweet rendition of "Drive In Movie." After "Alice's Champagne Palace," Laurie mentioned that while Red Molly is taking a break, the band's members are working on solo projects, and on her CD she plans to cover Ellis Paul's "Home." She sang lead on part of "Home" at the show, with Ellis on keyboard, and Radoslav on accordion.

As has become a tradition for these New Year's gigs, Ellis Paul chose some interesting songs to cover. First he played "The Only Way," a song by Mark Erelli that he covered on the CD he did with Vance Gilbert titled Side Of The Road. He followed that with some songs chosen specifically for this year of deaths, beginning with Prince's "Kiss" leading straight into "Purple Rain." Laurie sang lead on "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," that huge hit written by George Michael. And then they played Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Yes, it's an obvious choice, especially these days, but a welcome one. Ellis, Radoslav, David and Laurie each took a verse, and they ended the song a cappella. It was a beautiful version that brought tears to my eyes.

I am always excited to hear something new from Ellis Paul, and at this show he played a new tune titled "Scarecrow In A Corn Maze," which he performed solo on keyboard. As I've come to expect, it's a really good song. He followed that with "Mary, Mary," a song from City Of Silver Dreams (and no, not The Monkees song), and at this show Laurie took over lead vocal duties. For those of us who were wondering why Don Conoscenti wasn't a part of the show, Ellis mentioned that he actually retired. The band then played "3,000 Miles," the song that Ellis says is the one that's been played more than any other song in the entire history of Club Passim. I believe it. They then wrapped up the show with "Annalee," performing it unmiked in the audience. The show ended at 9:19 p.m.

Set List
  1. I Ain't No Jesus
  2. The World Ain't Slowin' Down
  3. Maria's Beautiful Mess
  4. Kick Out The Lights
  5. Drive In Movie
  6. Alice's Champagne Palace
  7. Home
  8. The Only Way
  9. Kiss >
  10. Purple Rain
  11. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
  12. Hallelujah
  13. Scarecrow in A Corn Maze
  14. Mary, Mary
  15. 3,000 Miles
  16. Annalee
Here are a few photos from the show:

"I Ain't No Jesus"
tuning before "The World Ain't Slowin' Down"
"Drive In Movie"
during introduction to "Home"
"3,000 Miles"
Club Passim is located at 47 Palmer St. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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