Seth Avett + Jessica Lea Mayfield Honor Elliott Smith in New York City
With a stage presence that more mimicked a Broadway play than a concert, Seth Avett, Jessica Lea Mayfield and Paul Defiglia dazzled New York City's Town Hall last night (March 12) with an unforgettable 21-song set, focused prominently on the life and work of Elliott Smith.
Celebrating the impending release of Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith -- set to hit the streets on March 17 via Ramseur Records -- the trio performed 11 tunes from Smith's catalog, including a spirited rendition of "Ballad of Big Nothing" and a hauntingly familiar cover of "Miss Misery."
Scattered throughout the setlist were other covers that represented "obvious crossroads" between Smith, Mayfield and Avett. The first, Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman," was greeted with raucous applause from the audience. They also threw in a couple of Beatles tunes ("I Will," "I Me Mine"), a phenomenal Hank Williams Sr. cover ("Settin' the Woods on Fire") and an Andy Griffith-inspired track, the Dillards' "There Is a Time." Avett attributed the latter song with his first realization that "happy lyrics combined with sad aesthetics" (or vice versa) could create a beautiful song -- an obvious nod to Smith's career. In addition to the covers, Mayfield and Avett traded a few of their own original songs.
The highlight of the evening, though, came when Defiglia and Mayfield stepped out of the spotlight, giving Avett the opportunity to perform Smith's "Angeles." While Mayfield wandered across the stage -- designed to look like a small, ordinary, dingy kitchen -- to top off her mug of hot tea, Avett bore his soul to the crowd with the Either/Or track; the beauty and honesty found in his interpretation were staggering, to say the least.
The night wrapped up with "Twilight" from Smiths' From a Basement on the Hill. There was no better tune to end with as this song was the first piece of Smith's catalog that Mayfield and Avett bonded over (backstage at a show in Idaho, more than a few years ago).
Avett, Mayfield and Defiglia are on the road through the end of March; you can get their full tour details here. If you get the opportunity to catch this unique concert experience, don't hesitate -- there is no evidence that this collaboration will ever find its way to the stage again, making these performances almost as fabled as Smith's career ... almost.
Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield -- Setlist, March 12, 2015
"Baby Britain" (Elliott Smith)
"A Fond Farewell" (Elliott Smith)
"Pitseleh" (Elliott Smith)
"Just Like a Woman" (Bob Dylan)
"There Is a Time" (The Dillards)
"Let's Get Lost" (Elliott Smith)
"Ballad of Big Nothing" (Elliott Smith)
"Rain on My Tin Roof" (Seth Avett)
"Settin' the Woods on Fire" (Hank Williams Sr.)
"Somebody That I Used to Know" (Elliott Smith)
"For Today" (Jessica Lea Mayfield)
"Angeles" (Elliott Smith)
Untitled (Seth Avett)
"Kiss Me Again" (Jessica Lea Mayfield)
"Memory Lane" (Elliott Smith)
"I Will" (The Beatles)
"Our Hearts Are Wrong" (Jessica Lea Mayfield)
"Between the Bars" (Elliott Smith)
"I Me Mine" (The Beatles)
"Miss Misery" (Elliott Smith)
"Twilight" (Elliott Smith)