Ellis Paul; April 16, 2009; High Noon Saloon
It’s an interesting feeling to be in a room full of worshipful fans when you aren’t one of them (one that would repeat itself later tonight). After all, why would you be there if you didn’t love the featured performer, especially when the cover is $20 and he’s the only one on the bill.
The fact is I can never quite remember whether or not I like Ellis Paul. The first time I saw him was part of the uniformly excellent Ribbon of Highway, Endless Skyway, a Woody Guthrie salute, a tour which also featured Slaid Cleeves, Eliza Gilkyson and Jimmy LeFave. The show was terrific, but I don’t recall if I enjoyed his individual performance. The next time was on a double bill with Peter Mulvey, again I remember the show as being good, but again nothing specific about Paul. The truth is I probably wouldn’t even have been here tonight if I hadn’t won tickets (thanks Madison.com!).
Maybe now I will actually remember how I feel about him. He’s good, and certainly a skilled entertainer, but he’s not someone that I’m going to go out of my way to see. I was definitely in the minority. The hero worship going on during this early show was slightly embarrassing. Several people applauded after every song like he was the Beatles, and they laughed at his jokes like he was George Carlin (though I don’t remember anything particularly funny). He was sincere and engaging throughout his set as he moved between guitar and keyboard. He had driven many hours from his home in New Orleans to play this show, and was delighted that we had come to see him.
He was especially delighted to see the couple at the front table. They had just gotten engaged after a four year courtship which began with a first date at the High Noon seeing Ellis Paul. The bride-to-be was named Emily, which coincidentally was also Paul’s first wife’s name. Most of the songs in tonight’s set were dedicated to Emily, differentiating between his Emily and the recently engaged one. The former got the angry break-up songs, while the latter got the happy love songs.
I was happy to hear that Jack Ingram is going to cover one of his songs, mostly because I like Jack Ingram (who actually writes a lot of his own songs, unusual for a country star) not because I found the song especially interesting. Which kind of sums up the show, it was a solid set from a performer that I don’t especially need to see again for another four years. He’s certainly no Peter Mulvey.