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Pop Music Review

Elliott Smith, Daniel Lanois Play It Heartfelt

October 04, 2002|NATALIE NICHOLS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Singer-songwriters Daniel Lanois and Elliott Smith each struck emotionally honest chords during a Tuesday benefit concert at the Echo nightclub in Echo Park. But the Canadian uber-producer evoked moods with atmospheric music, while the American cult hero squeezed hearts with plaintive confessions.

Smith was clearly the main attraction, as a line of devotees snaked around the block hours before his set, hoping to pay just $15 (proceeds went toward paying medical bills for Spaceland and Echo booker Jennifer Tefft) to see him in an intimate environment.

The Portland, Ore., native became an indie sensation with his first three albums. Then he released two albums on DreamWorks Records after his tune "Miss Misery," from the 1997 movie "Good Will Hunting," was nominated for a best song Oscar. Tuesday's folk-and blues-flavored solo acoustic set lasted about an hour, with older works blending into material from a long-awaited follow-up (which still has no release date) to 2000's "Figure 8."

Indeed, Smith seemed more comfortable in the role of unassuming troubadour than that of the giddy rocker from his 2000 show at the Wiltern Theatre. Yet the songs' isolation, longing and bitterness felt more forceful and resilient, as his thin tenor was more assured, underscoring the comforting quality of his often mournful-feeling tunes.

Lanois, who recently signed with Epitaph's rootsy Anti label, conjured up a similar sense of introverted perseverance with his backing trio. Despite some technical glitches, new material such as "Sometimes," along with such signature numbers as "The Maker," radiated a reflective spirituality more through haunting pedal-steel, electric and acoustic guitar notes than Lanois' merely serviceable voice.

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