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Ellis Paul

Ellis Paul at Memorial Hall, Milford, Massachusetts 3-13-16 Concert Review

Michael Doherty's Music Log

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

by Michael Doherty

Memorial Hall was built in 1884, and is one of those great old New England buildings with a lot of character. The stone wall of the staircase going to the lower level makes you think of descending into a dungeon, and names of soldiers who died in the Spanish American War adorn the walls at the entrance to the building. The concert hall is upstairs, and on the walls are paintings of various battles. The floor is wood, and a piano is on the floor next to the audience, rather than on the stage. (I'm told they hold dance classes there during the week.) Basically, it's a wonderful place to see a concert.

Ellis Paul was in great form at the show there on March 13th, and his set had a lot of energy and a very positive feel. The audience there was incredibly enthusiastic, and seemed to know nearly every song he played, singing along. But the show actually started with a three-song set by Matt Zajac, who had won a contest by covering Ellis Paul's "Blacktop Train" (you can see his video of it on the Amped Up Promotions Facebook page). He did a couple of original tunes ("Lady In White" and "Brother Judas") and a Beatles cover ("Mother Nature's Son"). And then Gay Barboza did a set, which included some songs from her most recent CD, Work In Progress (including the excellent "Unbroken" and the title track).

Ellis Paul then took the stage at 8:18 p.m., kicking his set off with "I Ain't No Jesus." After that song, he said, "This is going to be a memorable night because we're at Memorial Hall." He added, "The jokes are free." He then went into a seriously excellent rendition of "3,000 Miles." This is a song he has played... well, a whole lot. But this was one of the best versions I've heard. It had a tremendous energy, and the audience sang along without being prompted or asked. The song felt fresh again. Ellis kept the energy up with "Kick Out The Lights." This is a song with an audience participation section, with both male and female parts, and at the beginning when Ellis began showing the male part ("Kick out the lights!"), the women joined in with their part ("Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash") without being instructed. No one seemed to need any prodding to join in. This was a crowd that was more than ready to sing along, and they actually sounded quite good.

At the beginning of "Maria's Beautiful Mess," Ellis Paul broke the song down into its components (as he had done at the show last month at McCabe's, though this time without reference to the Rolling Stones or James Taylor). This is another audience favorite, and the energy in the room was great. After that song, Ellis said, "I wonder what I'm going to do with that one when I'm ninety," and the crowd was not at all reluctant to offer its some thoughts and responses. "Drive-In Movie" was then dedicated to one of the audience members.

Laurie MacAllister (of the band Red Molly) joined Ellis for "Home." Before the song, Ellis asked to borrow a cell phone with a flashlight because the venue has no light aimed at the piano (the piano is located next to the first couple of rows of chairs). The cell phone light didn't quite work, but that was fine. Laurie sang the chorus from the stage, and it sounded wonderful. This was a really good rendition. After that, Ellis played a new song, "You Ain't From These Parts," a fun tune about local pronunciation of various towns, and this rendition included a special new verse about Massachusetts (which apparently he wrote just that day).

Ellis recently purchased a new guitar which he has named Sprocket. And he played that guitar on "Wasted," which he performed unmiked in the audience. He then returned to the piano for "Hurricane Angel." This time the two audience members closest to the piano held up their cell phones with the lights aimed at him. He then read "Thomas Edison" from his children's book, The Hero In You. In plugging the book, he suggested that audience members buy it for their children, grandchildren, nieces or "kids you've just abducted," which totally made me laugh. He ended the set with "The World Ain't Slowin' Down," another one which the audience sang along to.

Laurie MacAllister joined Ellis on vocals for the encore, a sweet cover of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love." The show ended at 9:33 p.m. It was kind of a short show, but was absolutely excellent. And by the smiles I saw on others there, I think everyone had the same impression. People seemed happy as they headed out into the cool Sunday night air.

Set List
I Ain't No Jesus
3,000 Miles
Kick Out The Lights
Rose Tattoo
Maria's Beautiful Mess
Drive-In Movie
You Ain't From These Parts
Hurricane Angel
Thomas Edison
The World Ain't Slowin' Down

Make You Feel My Love

This was the first of what is intended to be a series of concerts at this venue, with national acts as headliners and local artists as supporting acts. I hope it is successful. This show certainly was. The folks that are running this venue are all serious music fans and are excited about bringing music to Milford. I definitely recommend checking out shows there if you get the chance. Memorial Hall is located at 30 School St., Milford, Massachusetts. Tickets for this show were $25.

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