Saturday, March 12, 2016
Unitarian Universalist Church, Brunswick, Maine
This was my 46th Ellis Paul show, and it was fantastic. Obviously, some Ellis Paul shows are better than others, and I can tell the difference, even if I’m biased. There was a point in time a few years ago when Ellis’ voice sounded strained (he plays hundreds of shows a year, so that’s to be expected) and he needed to work with a voice coach and get some vocal rest. I also didn’t love how he gave up telling a lot of his best stories about a year ago (how he found his guitar, Guinness, for example) to banter instead about how we’ve lost our connection to music we can hold in our hands and carried a record player around to all of his shows. The last two of his shows that I saw (January 1 at One Longfellow Square) and this lovely night were full of the best of Ellis—with a powerful voice and great storytelling.
Hedda and I have been friends since we both had bad hair in high school (she had a bowl cut. I had a spiral perm). She was able to join me at the beautiful Unitarian Universalist Church in Brunswick for her first-ever Ellis Paul show. My dear colleague Dennis and his beloved wife, Jean, were also able to come for their first-ever Ellis experience. I love introducing people to Ellis Paul. It never gets old. All of them, of course, loved him. He was really on that night!
This show was one in a series of Concerts for a Cause at the UU Church. They host concerts to raise money for local charities chosen by church members. This year’s charities are Midcoast Hunger Prevention, Tedford Housing, Independence Association, Spindleworks, Habitat for Humanity, Gathering Place, Boys to Men, Maine Hospice, ILAP (Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project), Natural Resources of Maine, Coastal Humane Society, and Doctors Without Borders.
It’s time for a brief concert etiquette lesson. If you’re taking photos at a concert with a camera that makes sound, it’s polite to shoot during a few songs and then put the camera away. The same goes for taking photos with a cell phone, even if it’s silent. No one wants to listen to your camera click or watch a show through your cell phone screen if they’re stuck sitting behind you. It is not polite to take photos throughout every song such that people around you can’t enjoy the tender moments in the song because everyone in a five-plus row radius can only hear the constant click of your camera. I spoke to this particular Ellis superfan during intermission and asked her to kindly put the loud camera away after intermission, and she obliged. I think the folks sitting behind her had to endure watching the rest of the show through the screen of her cell phone while she took photos without sound (a bummer still, even if somewhat an improvement), but the second half of the show was a ton more enjoyable for those of us a bit farther away.
Ellis obviously impressed the sold out crowd. Folks were toe tapping and laughing and singing along (when invited) all night long. The truly talented Laurie MacAllister from Red Molly sang a few songs with Ellis. She’s performed with him every time I’ve seen him over the last year or so, and is a real treat. He introduced us to his beautiful new guitar, Sprocket, which he invited us to take a closer look at after the show. I didn’t take notes and just enjoyed the show; so I have nothing resembling a set list for you, but I remember that he wrapped his set with an improved song at the piano about being back in Maine (which was creative and hilarious) and his encore was an unplugged sing along to Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” from the middle of the room.
Do you think you get to sing a song on stage with Ellis at your 50th Ellis show? Starting to plan ahead. Thank you, Ellis, for another wonderful night!