Friday, April 28, 2017
Chocolate Church Arts Center, Bath, Maine
This was my 48th Ellis Paul show. That might sound like a lot, but I’ve really just seen him a few times a year since my first Ellis show at Bowdoin College back in 2002. He’s obviously my favorite, though, and this was a great night. I was thrilled that Colin could join me, because Ellis is better shared. I had a quick girls dinner at my house and then raced over to Bath’s Chocolate Church Arts Center for the show.
There was no show opener, which I love when I’m seeing my favorite artists (because how could they compare, really), and Ellis took the stage a little after 7:30. He was in a great mood, and was very chatty with the audience, which is my favorite. Ellis had some new banter topics and he led a brief whole audience conversation about which artists we could take or leave. Bob Dylan is my “zero artist,” because I love “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Forever Young” but I’d prefer to hear Dylan songs sung by just about anyone else.
Ellis played a couple of improvised songs at the piano–one about tourist season in Maine, and his encore was a song about how much he loves Tom Brady. He played a lovely song that I’ve maybe only heard once before (always a bonus) about Pawnee, Oklahoma. He explained that “Oklahoma is the Maine of the midwest” and that he was off to Tulsa for the 4th anniversary of the Woody Guthrie Center. He showed us his Woody Guthrie tattoo and told us the story about showing it awkwardly to Arlo after his opening set at the Boston Hatch Shell many years ago and then, many years later, showing it to Nora Guthrie (at her request) while chatting with a random German who ended up becoming her husband. When Ellis offered to play requests, I asked for “God’s Promise” (his music and Woody’s lyrics), which he picked first and I was thrilled to hear. The guy sitting next to me elbowed me with excitement when Ellis picked my request, which was pretty adorable.
Ellis shared that he’s celebrating 25 years as a touring musician, which is a long time! He read us the Thomas Edison piece from his The Hero in You book, sang a song in progress with verses from many states he’s visited that was hilarious, and generally interacted warmly with us and kept us laughing all night. He came down into the audience to sing “Annalee” together, wrapped up with his Tom Brady love ballad, and send us home smiling. It’s always a pleasure to see Ellis live, and I’m getting excited for my 50th show!
Friday, April 10, 2015
Boothbay Opera House, Boothbay Harbor, Maine
My dear friend Dot asked if I wanted to join her for her very first Ellis Paul show. Of course I wanted to! I love going with Ellis Paul first-timers to see their reaction to his fantastic storytelling and engaging live show. Dot and I met after school and carpooled to Boothbay Harbor, where we boldly invited ourselves to share a big table with a man and his son at the very crowded The Thistle Inn (who, of course, we found out we had people in common with) and made it over to the Boothbay Opera House when doors opened. I hadn’t been to the Boothbay Opera House in years and it looks fantastic!
Guitar prodigy Shun Ng took the stage and wowed with very impressive, complex guitar pieces and reinterpreted songs, including “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Ellis is a mentor to this talented 25 year old, and helped him write the lyrics for the first of the songs he played that night. When Ellis’ guitar string broke later in the evening, Shun brought Ellis his own guitar to use. I liked seeing their friendship and admiration for each other, and am happy to see Ellis’ continued support of young musicians.
Ellis took the stage and welcomed us warmly. He lived for a couple of years in the midcoast and many of his friends and neighbors from those years were at the show. This was my 44th Ellis Paul show, and I think he sounded the best he has in ages (even though he told us later in the show that he had a bit of a cold). The majority of songs he played over the course of the evening were from his most recent fan-funded album, Chasing Beauty, and his 2010 release, The Day After Everything Changed. Ellis showed us the vinyl version of Chasing Beauty and a copy of his first children’s book The Hero In You. He reminisced with the crowd throughout the night about shows he’s played in the area, including a show years ago at Bowdoin College (I couldn’t help myself and shouted out that the Bowdoin show was my first time seeing him and he joked that “you never forget your first time!”). Laurie MacAllister, who plays bass for Red Molly, joined Ellis for two songs. They honored the late Pete Seeger by playing his “If I Had A Hammer” and closed the night together with a beautiful version of “Let It Be.” I see Ellis live so often that I am very familiar with the content of his live show, but I got a special treat because he played a song I’d never heard before–“I Ain’t No Jesus”—which I loved.
Ellis Paul smiling for his former hometown crowd
I was glad that Ellis played some of my favorites for Dot to experience live—including “Maria’s Beautiful Mess” and “Hurricane Angel.” We got to sing along on “Kick Out the Lights” about Johnny Cash kicking out the lights at the Grand Ole Opry. Ellis hopped off stage and played “Annalee” and “The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down” unplugged from the floor. He asked us to sing along and at some point I realized mine was the only voice besides his I could hear. It was as close to singing a duet with Ellis that I’ve come. Maybe we should do a song together at my 50th Ellis show? It won’t be long. Thanks for a great night!
Red Molly’s Laurie MacAllister
“Let It Be”