“Around ’97 or so my friend Jon Brion went out and bought about 15 copies of a quiet-voiced singer and gifted guitarist named Elliott Smith. Jon, whose talents have earned him wide admiration as a producer and composer, was on a mission to spread the word about an artist who he himself had just encountered and was beginning to work with. “You have got to hear this!” Jon said. The album was simply called Elliott Smith. It would be followed by the albums Either/Or,XO and Figure 8 before Smith’s death at the terribly young age of 34.
At a time of musical grandiosity, Elliott had emerged with a very contrasting vision. His originality, almost whispered rage and isolation spoke to a generation with the kind of honesty and sophistication not heard since Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band. The album Elliott Smith coincided with my casual friendship with Elliott. He, Jon and I shared many an off-the-cuff night on stage at Largo, colliding like bumper cars as we worked our way through old cover songs, even tackling the Bowie/Queen duet “Under Pressure” one night – none of us with a straight face. I remember those laughs well, just as I recall the impact of encountering Elliott Smith’s artistry for the very first time.”
“I’ll never forget one night in Largo, many years ago, when Jon was taking requests. A shy figure approached the stage with his request jotted down on a folded up slip of paper. That man was Elliott Smith. His request was Cheap Trick’s “Voices.” Since then, Brion has recorded the song in his own inimitable style (it closes out Meaningless.) At the end of the night in San Francisco, I shouted – along with others – for him to play another request. My pick was “Voices”, privately in honour of the late Elliott Smith.”
“Three years before he died is the point where I knew… I remember the conversation. I remember his inability to speak coherently. I remember realizing he had gone too far. He had consumed too much. It felt like the person I loved wasn’t home anymore. And the filter that normally exists between the soul and the rest of the world was so mangled… I knew it, and it hit me hard.”
“It’s so funny that here is this guy we all love who had, you know, one of the most beautiful minds for seeing the world in analogy, and therefore it made conversing with him a deep human pleasure, but yet at the same time he had that intense combination of heaps of self-doubt and self-assurance.”
“Speaking of someone who can never be forgotten, I would like to bring up Elliott Smith. I used to watch him transform on your stage. He may not have wanted to perform, but you had a gentle way of reminding him how much he needed to. It went from not being sure whether he’d get on stage to being hopeful that it may not come to an end. Those were special nights. And, in addition to Elliott Smith, you offered us the space to experience the deep friendship between Elliott Smith and Jon Brion. It seemed as if they felt, on some level, that they were the only ones who understood each other. Jon had a way of “being” with Elliott that seemed to put him at ease, or at least make him feel significantly better. And Elliott had a way of sparking a look of pure admiration and awe on Jon’s face when he’d sing “Say Yes” with his eyes closed. This kind of experience can’t happen everywhere. The moments that “happen” at Largo happen because you’ve created, and consistently provide, the space and tone that are required for them to occur.”