These Elliott Smith-Quasi gigs — where Smith sits in on bass during some of the organ-and-drum duo’s contemplative opening set, and they in turn back him during his headlining performance — almost seem like two sets by the same band, to the detriment of both acts, as well as to Smith’s fans. In this case, less would definitely be more.
At the Troubadour a few months back, Smith, more or less alone with his guitar, enthralled a packed-house with a stripped-down and mysterious offering that had the crowd in the palm of his hand, singing along to his melancholy songs (many taken from the “Good Will Hunting” soundtrack), each of which took on a life of its own.
This two-night Roxy booking (after a warm-up at Silverlake’s Spaceland on Monday) capped the first week of Smith’s monthlong national tour in support of his new DreamWorks release, “XO,” and reflected the more dynamic tone and expanded musicality of the album, which was produced by the too-cool team of Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf (see Beck, Foo Fighters), which runs indie label Bong Load Records.
While the strength and compassion of Smith’s folky writing did manage to shine through the bigger arrange-ments of this new presentation, the songs at the first show on Tuesday tended to blend one into another in ways they never do when he plays alone, and the overall sound was a poppier one than longtime listeners may have expected.
Quasi, which records for Seattle’s Sub Pop-associated Up Records, is sort of a two-piece combination of the bittersweet lyrical inclinations of the Smiths and the boy-girl pop-vocal style of obscure Portland band Hazel and has been touring with Smith on and off for about two years.
The twisted pop duo — organist Sam Coomes, who played in the early ’90s with Smith in Heatmiser, and drummer Janet Weiss, who’s also in the all-girl Sleater-Kinney — actually seemed stifled and distracted during their opening portion, when Smith, standing behind the drum kit, joined them at mid-set on bass for a few songs, losing the energetic spark and dramatic interplay that otherwise existed between them.