Ellis Paul, Club Passim (Cambridge, MA. Dec 31st 2012)
Listen. Experience. Engage. That’s the motto of this venue and four sold-out Ellis Paul shows over two nights (30th and 31st December) showed that that’s exactly what many music lovers wanted to do. Paul has been playing this venue annually at New Year since (it’s thought) 1995 and it’s become a traditional way for many locals, and those not so local, to see in the New Year.
Tonight, Paul was joined by regular accompanists Don Conoscenti on guitar and Radoslav Lorkovic on keyboards and accordion. Additionally, the young Austin based singer/songwriter Rebecca Loebe provided gorgeous harmony vocals on many songs.
With a new holiday album to promote CITY OF SILVER DREAMS it was delightful to hear songs from that played; the album contains nine originals and one classic, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. It is due for a commercial release shortly but is available to download and to purchase at shows. Mary, Mary which tells the Christmas story from Mary’s point of view, is one of my favourites.
A leading light of the Boston school of song writing, Paul has built a reputation for a thoughtful, literate and appealing style. Having seen him perform a good number of times, he is excellent at judging the mood of the audience and being able to tailor the set list accordingly. New Year’s Eve with its party atmosphere called for an upbeat selection of songs – 3000 Miles, The World Ain’t Slowing Down, Alice’s Champagne Palace were typical choices but these were complemented with more cerebral selections Hurricane Angel an indictment on the aftermath of ‘Katrina’, Rose Tattoo about a man returning to his family after losing his job and his wife’s belief that they can survive difficult times, and Chief Joseph the story of the brave and wise leader of the Nez Perce tribe whose famous quote ‘I will fight no more forever’ is included in the chorus.
The New Year’s audience has come to expect at least a couple of untypical cover songs and tonight’s were David Loggins’ Please Come to Boston and Elvis Costello’s Alison. The first drew raucous laughter when Paul changed some of the lyrics to reflect the even more local setting ‘please come to Cambridge for New Year, we got twenty feet of snow and there’s no parking here, we can drop out of Harvard like old Bill Gates, or roam the streets like Zuckerberg looking for a date’.
As the clock moved towards midnight, Paul’s management team served champagne to the audience; we counted in the New Year to the medley of Walking After Midnight/Change/Auld Lang Syne and embraced family, friends and strangers to wish them a happy 2013. The party was (to quote Cole Porter) a swell one and yes we all loved listening, experiencing and engaging! Jela Webb