Tuesday, May 26, 1998

Elliott Smith’s indie style delights crowd

MUSIC: ‘Good Will Hunting’s independent songwriter wins over
audience with sweet, melodic performance

By Brendon Vandergast

Daily Bruin Contributor

John Lennon, Nick Drake, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor …
the hush folk of such greats is the real inspiration for
singer-songwriter Elliott Smith rather than the indie scene he
arose from.

Smith, who played two sold-out performances at the Troubadour on
Tuesday and Wednesday evening, is more likely to be identified by
his thrift-store attire, his previous rock band Heatmiser and his
longtime independent record label, Kill Rock Stars (which
represents noisebands like Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney and Unwound)
than your typical Northwest punker.

Indeed, thanks to director Gus Van Sant, who personally placed
Smith’s songs prominently on the "Good Will Hunting" movie
soundtrack, and a performance at this year’s Academy Awards of his
nominated song, "Miss Misery," most of the audience had put their
predispositions aside. The packed house of avid fans and
industry-likes well anticipated Smith’s indie melody and were not
disappointed, even if he didn’t play his Oscar-popular song.

Armed with an acoustic guitar, microphone and breathy voice,
Smith looked more at ease in the intimate setting, which resembled
the familiarity of a coffeehouse rather than the remoteness of the
Shrine Auditorium. Still, his ever-timid demeanor was an almost
perfect accompaniment to his textured yet simple, mysterious yet
laconic songs.

The crowd was lulled to a sweet silence by his beautiful
renditions of "Between the Bars" and the Beatles-esque "Say Yes,"
both from "Good Will Hunting." Never before had the Troubador been
so hushed. Quite possibly Smith’s most amorous lines, "I’m in love
with the world / Through the eyes of a girl / Who’s still around
the morning after" – from the opening of "Say Yes" – met with
ecstatic cheers and whistles from adoring fans.

Smith stuck to songs from his critically-acclaimed indie
release, "Either/Or," but didn’t preview songs from his new,
major-label debut on Dreamworks, due out this summer. Nevertheless,
between songs, the crowd shouted out requests in hope of hearing
early and rare tunes from Smith’s three-solo album repertoire.
Smith acquiesced and apologized when playing his older, forgotten
material.

But his mistakes were few and far between. His penchant for
flawless, subtle emotion rang through on "Oh Well, OK," where Smith
broke out of his restrained range and projected his soft-hearted
vocals for the finale.

"Good time for a cigarette break," Smith explained shortly
before returning to the the stage for an encore. This time the
opening band and his good friends, Quazi (featuring members of
Heatmiser and Sleater-Kinney), joined him for a "plugged" set of
pop songs. Smith, though he had not practiced with a back-up band,
jelled masterfully into the the four piece-setting – almost as if
his previous solo-play was just a prelude to his main performance
on the electric guitar.

Afterwards, the crowd left more than pleased and industry folk
had bought into the hype buzzing around Smith’s attractively
attuned songwriting skills. And even a few guests who had never
heard his music before had opened their minds and ears that
evening.

By the time most of the Troubador capacity had shuffled out the
doors, Smith walked over the bar to see a few friends and have a
beer. His small stature hid behind the activity of his buddies.
Enormous success is looming over him, but he doesn’t seem to care -
he’s not a rock star, just a guy from the local coffeehouse with a
guitar and an appreciation for good music.

Kill Rock Stars

Oscar nominee Elliott Smith played a packed crowd at the
Troubador.