Friday, January 6, 2017

Ellis Paul at Club Passim, 12-31-16 Concert Review

Ellis Paul performing "I Ain't No Jesus"
Ellis Paul celebrated twenty-five years as a professional musician with his annual New Year's Eve shows at Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The set list for the early show on the 31st was basically the same as the one the previous night, with a slightly different order. However, there were two significant differences. The first is that, though he was still feeling sick, Ellis Paul's voice was much stronger than the night before. The second is that Christopher Williams was not present on percussion. Flynn opened the show on the 31st, and joined Ellis for one song near the end of the show, but otherwise the band was David Glaser on guitar, electric mandolin and backing vocals; Radoslav Lorkovic on keyboard, accordion and backing vocals; and Laurie MacAllister on backing vocals.

However, as on the 30th, Ellis kicked off the show with a couple of numbers performed solo: "I Ain't No Jesus" and "The World Ain't Slowin' Down," the latter done unmiked and within the audience (so not visible or audible to those watching at home on Concert Window - there was mention of that by club managing director Matt Smith before the show). Before starting, Ellis told the audience, "I've got the plague," and asked them to sing along with the songs. After those two opening numbers, the band joined Ellis on stage. When Ellis introduced Radoslav, there was a big cheer, leading Laurie to joke with Rad, "It seems they've heard of you." They then went into "Maria's Beautiful Mess," with Ellis asking the audience, "Help us sing, if you know it." But, as I mentioned, his voice was noticeably stronger than the previous night.

While tuning before "Drive In Movie," Ellis joked, "My guitar's been drinking." And then before a high-energy rendition of "Kick Out The Lights," Ellis said, "I know that some of you folks know this is a shout-along." And indeed, the audience was quite loud in its participation. Laurie sang lead on a verse of that one, and Radoslav delivered a great lead section on keys, with David following with some cool stuff on electric guitar. They followed that with a really good version of "The Only Way," featuring more wonderful stuff on keys and a great lead part by David on electric mandolin. Ellis played harmonica on that one.

"Alice's Champagne Palace" has long been a crowd favorite, and before they played it, Ellis and Radoslav talked about how the lyrics to the song are on the wall of the venue in Homer, Alaska. Laurie mentioned that in Alaska there are ten men for every woman. "The odds are good, but the goods are odd," she joked. Ellis then switched to keyboard for "Home," while Radoslav played accordion. Laurie sang lead on part of that song.

As is now tradition for the New Year's shows, Ellis Paul did a few covers. For these shows, he picked material written by a few of the many songwriters and musicians who died in 2016. He began with a couple by Prince: "Kiss" and "Purple Rain." David sang lead on a portion of "Purple Rain," and Ellis took a candle from one of the tables in front and waved it above his head for a moment, with some members of the audience doing likewise. Laurie then sang lead on "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," which contained one amusing goof toward the end. Ellis acknowledged how bad 2016 was, but then offered a bit of optimism: "We can make it better. I don't know how. But we can." And then they played Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," which again brought tears to my eyes. They did four verses of the song, with each band member singing lead on one. Ellis started with "I've heard there was a secret chord." Radoslav then continued with "Your faith was strong, but you needed proof." David sang lead on the verse that begins "Maybe there's a god above," and Laurie sang lead on "I did my best, it wasn't much." (They didn't do the "People, I've been here before" verse or the "There was a time you let me know" verse.)

"I took a lot of cold medicine before this gig, and I feel great," Ellis told the audience before playing a new song, "Scarecrow In A Corn Maze," which he performed solo on keyboard. Laurie then sang lead on a beautiful rendition of "Mary, Mary," with David on electric mandolin. Laurie also mentioned her upcoming solo album, and it sounds like both David and Radoslav will be performing on it. They then wrapped up the set with "3,000 Miles," with Flynn joining on backing vocals, and with David really rocking the electric mandolin.

For the encore, Ellis and David played "Annalee" unmiked and in the middle of the audience, with Laurie joining them halfway through. The show ended at 9:18 p.m.

Set List
  1. I Ain't No Jesus
  2. The World Ain't Slowin' Down
  3. Maria's Beautiful Mess
  4. Drive In Movie
  5. Kick Out The Lights
  6. The Only Way
  7. Alice's Champagne Palace
  8. Home
  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
  1. Annalee
Here are a few photos from the show:

"Maria's Beautiful Mess"
"The Only Way"
"Purple Rain"
"Scarecrow In A Corn Maze"
"3,000 Miles"

Club Passim is located at 47 Palmer St. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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