The highly improbable, and still-unfolding, Hollywood success story of punk-folk musician Elliott Smith shows no sign of letting up.
At the Roxy on Thursday, the first of 10 scheduled U.S. club shows, the charming singer-songwriter — who earned an Oscar nomination in 1998 for his song “Say Yes” from the “Good Will Hunting” soundtrack — gave a commanding solo performance of new and older material that promises only to fuel the artist’s red-hot hype.
Alone under dimmed spotlights with his blond-colored acoustic guitar, Smith, the former Heatmiser member, captivated the packed club with an hourlong, 18-song set of introspective folk-pop music that was delightful for its expressive simplicity, and was exceedingly inspiring by virtue of Smith’s disarming and smooth ability to reach deep within the listener.
The over-packed room was loud with applause and shouts of encouragement when Smith took to the unadorned stage just after 10 p.m., but was hushed as soon as he began to sing, in his just-above-a-whisper style, “Son of Sam,” a B-side from a recent single. Titles were continually yelled out from the crowd between songs, but Smith would only wipe his brow or sip from his beer before quietly beginning the next number.
The common-man themes — on songs like the gentle “Coming Up Roses,” the new growing-up ode “Division Day” and encore “Rose Parade” — are easy to relate to, and Smith’s simple acoustic guitar accompaniments gave each of the tunes just the right touch of flavor. Other highlights included the troubled affair of “Taking the Easy Way Out” and the biting “Angeles,” which shines a damning light on L.A.
Many of the new songs are tabbed for Smith’s upcoming second album for DreamWorks, and fifth album overall, titled “Figure 8” and due in stores April 18.
This club tour hits Gotham’s Town Hall today, while an extended U.S. tour of larger venues is expected to coincide with the new album’s issue.