Before he made a beautifully understated suit-clad performance at the Oscars, before his Figure 8 album cover turned the mural at 4330 West Sunset Boulevard into a L.A. tourist destination, before he tragically died at age 34, Elliott Smith was a singer with an acoustic guitar and some beautifully sad songs, traveling the country and playing gigs.
In April of 1997, Smith was on an east coast run in support of Either / Or — an album which, along with his self titled record from 1995, are essential documents of his minimal, home-recorded Kill Rock Stars years — and the tour came through Princeton, New Jersey’s Terrace Club on April 12, 1997.
An immaculate soundboard recording of the show has been floating around the web for a few years now, and today we bring it to you care of a tip from Kyle Costill of Ortlieb’s (and BITBY, and Trouble Everyday). He remembers the Terrace as an amazing indie rock hub for a solid stretch of the late 90s, a place where fans could see At The Drive-In and Modest Mouse in what basically amounted to a living room.
At this show, we hear an assortment of songs from those two KRS albums played to a crowd that maintained in pindrop silence throughout. Smith had that effect on listeners — the one time I saw him, at the Trocadero in 2002, it was possibly the quietest large crowd I’ve ever been a part of. In the mix alongside heartrending takes on “Alphabet Town,” “Say Yes” and more are two covers: “Thirteen” by Big Star and “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks.
And though Smith wasn’t much for conversation, he did let his deadpan humor shine through. “You wanna hear a loud song or a quiet song?” he asks at one point. Which, ha, they’re all quiet songs — the rambling “Big Decision” being the closet thing to loud that we hear in the set. But that’s okay, because they’re all gorgeous, aching, stirring, simmering compositions about loss, about addiction, about sadness and love. Listen to the master at work below, and grab a download at Archive.org.
Between the Bars
St. Ides Heaven
Needle In the Hay
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