Friday, June 21, 2019

Ellis Paul at City Winery, 6-8-19 Concert Review

Ellis Paul performing "I Ain't No Jesus"
Ellis Paul celebrated the release of his new album, The Storyteller’s Suitcase, with an excellent show at City Winery in Boston on June 8th. Joining him for this concert were Abbie Gardner on dobro and backing vocals and Seth Glier on piano and backing vocals. However, he started the show solo, taking the stage just after 8 p.m., coming out with a glass of wine. He asked the audience if any of them had the new album already, and a lot of folks cheered. The Storyteller’s Suitcase had been released a week earlier, so folks had a chance to become familiar with the material before this show. Of course, anyone who had been seeing Ellis over the past couple of years had likely heard several of the album’s tunes performed live already. The song he chose to open the show, “I Ain’t No Jesus,” is one he has been playing for a few years now. And he delivered a sweet rendition at this show.

He followed that with “Slingshot,” another song from the new album, but one I don’t think I’d heard before. When he announced the song, one guy in the audience cheered, and Ellis said, “Thank you, and I mean you.” In introducing the song, Ellis said it was a song about having nothing but wanting it all. It was after that song that Abbie Gardner and Seth Glier joined him on stage. And actually they joined him a few moments after he started his next song, “3,000 Miles.” This is the song I’ve seen Ellis perform more than any other, and this rendition featured a really nice lead by Seth on piano. That was followed by another crowd favorite, “Kick Out The Lights.” Ellis told the audience it was a crowd participation number, and that he’d be watching to make sure they participated. “Unfortunately, I can only see this table,” he added, pointing at a table directly in front of him. This song is always a lot of fun in concert, and the audience at this show knew its parts. Seth delivered some more delicious work on piano, and then Abbie added some great stuff on dobro.

The concert was in Boston, and Ellis mentioned that he lived in Boston for twenty years (which predictably received a cheer from the crowd), but now resides in Charlottesville, Virginia. Charlottesville is most known these days for the Nazi rally that took place there in 2017, and Ellis Paul wrote a song about that day. Titled “The Battle Of Charlottesville,” it is included on The Storyteller’s Suitcase, an album of songs about specific days in Ellis’ life. It’s a powerful and moving song, and when Ellis finished it, the audience at City Winery gave it a lot of applause. By the way, if you don’t already own the new album, there are two versions of it available. The deluxe edition comes in its own little suitcase, with plenty of goodies inside, including a flask, a journal, a pen, and a USB containing all of Ellis Paul’s earlier releases (with the exception of the Tree Full of Crows album, which was only ever released on cassette). He showed the audience the contents of the deluxe edition before playing “Five Alarm Fire On The 4th Of July,” a fun song that includes a bit of “We Are Family” at the end. That was followed by “The Innocence And The Afterlife,” one of my favorites from the new album. The lines about his daughter asking about coming back as a puppy affect me every time I hear this song. Ellis then wrapped up the first set with “Alice’s Champagne Palace,” another crowd favorite. The first set ended at 8:54 p.m.

Abbie Gardner is a member of the group Red Molly (named after the Richard Thompson song “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”), and Ellis began the second set by mentioning that he was going to be playing at City Winery again in a few days, opening for Red Molly. He took the stage at 9:24 p.m., and started the second set, as the first, with a couple of songs performed solo. The first was the sweet “Rose Tattoo,” on which he played harmonica. “If I ever lost you/I would be lost too.” He then switched to piano for “Scarecrow In A Corn Maze.” Abbie and Seth came back out for a truly wonderful rendition of “Maria’s Beautiful Mess.” This is one of my favorite songs, and it is one that Ellis has played a lot over the years. It was great to hear a somewhat different take on it, with both Seth and Abbie contributing some good stuff. That was followed by “Election Day,” a cool and optimistic song written by Michael Brown, and then “You’ll Never Be This Young Again,” both of which are included on The Storyteller’s Suitcase.

“Mammoth” is a song that Ellis wrote with Seth Glier, and in introducing it Ellis said, “It just might be my favorite song on the record.” He read the lyrics from the liner notes of The Storyteller’s Suitcase, and was accompanied by Seth on piano (with Abbie providing some backing vocals). Then Ellis left the stage for “If I Could Change One Thing,” a song by Seth Glier. He said this was to give the audience a chance to really hear Seth and Abbie’s vocals. I don’t recall Ellis doing that at any other show (though my memory is at times questionable). He did return near the end to sing backup on this beautiful song. That was followed by “Kiss Me ‘Cause I’m Gone,” a song that Ellis wrote with Abbie Gardner, and one that had been performed only once prior to this show. The second set then concluded with “The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down.” The encore was a cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” with Abbie and Seth each taking a verse, and the audience singing the chorus. The show ended at 10:25 p.m.

Set List

Set I
  1. I Ain’t No Jesus
  2. Slingshot
  3. 3,000 Miles
  4. Kick Out The Lights
  5. The Battle Of Charlottesville
  6. Five Alarm Fire On The 4th Of July
  7. The Innocence And The Afterlife
  8. Alice’s Champagne Palace
Set II
  1. Rose Tattoo
  2. Scarecrow In A Corn Maze
  3. Maria’s Beautiful Mess
  4. Election Day
  5. You’ll Never Be This Young Again
  6. Mammoth
  7. If I Could Change One Thing
  8. Kiss Me ‘Cause I’m Gone
  9. The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down 
  1. This Land Is Your Land
Here are a few photos from the show:

"3,000 Miles"
"Kick Out The Lights"
Ellis showing the contents of the suitcase
"Rose Tattoo"
"Rose Tattoo"
"Rose Tattoo"

City Winery is located at 80 Beverly St. in Boston, Massachusetts.

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