los angeles henry fonda theatre jan 31
written by jolie lash, taken from nme, 2.03

ruddy-faced troubadour makes 'wayward' comeback

it's inevitable that when fanaticism reaches the kind of level it does with elliott smith acolytes, all transgressions are not just forgiven, but embraced. half an hour to set up a microphone and chair? please, elliott, take your time. another 15 minutes before the seat is filled with the performer? why, mr smith, you're truly a master of suspense. an hour of false starts and rambling? oh, what good fortune has befallen our ears.

If this were a stadium metal show, or even just an indie-rock gig, the patrons closest to the stage would leave doused in beer and urine, a gift from the disgruntled balcony. but tonight is very different. stupefied, we look on as smith sits - he's forgotten his guitar strap, you see? - alone onstage, mumbling quietly to everyone and no-one in particular. he's wearing a homemade 'i love heavy metal' t-shirt, but resists a datsuns makeover to lull us gently through 'coming up roses' and 'no name #1' like he's in his bedroom singing to his cat, stopping when he wants, or when he simply forgets the words.

he even blurts things out a propos of nothing - a bracelet he wore for eight years just fell off, we shouldn't worry 'cos he's in good health - like a jittery teen on a first date. like the continuing adventures of courtney love, the whole spectacle's so messy that you want to offer empathy, but all you can do is watch. uncomfortably.

thanks to duncan, jo