Robert Ellis, Tom Brosseau
July, 7, 2016
Over the years, Robert Ellis has transformed himself. Many of us remember the skinny, long-haired troubadour with the enchanting voice and kind smile. That was way before the record deal, and certainly before he was making appearances on NPR and other national media outlets. Lucky for us, Robert's heart is still golden and eager to be shared, as he does on his recently released self-titled album. The stories he tells are a mix of autobiographical memories and fantasy, as if his dreams somehow developed themselves into a series of short films with an amazing soundtrack. So although he may have lost the long hair, the voice and smile are still intact, both of which were on display at Discovery Green on a warm but pleasant Thursday evening in the heart of our great city.
The night began with the first two tracks of the new album, "Perfect Strangers" and "How I Love You." I heard a bit of Jackson Browne in these songs, as they stroll through the lives of ordinary people doing ordinary things, yet still somehow making the ordinary beautiful and heartfelt.
"I might not always be so patient. I might not always be so kind/ But in my own way I'll always cherish you..." Ellis sang in his honest, loving fashion. Draped in his blue Space Cowboy suit and boots, he looked out into the growing crowd and smiles. "You guys are very beautiful!" substituting a curse word in order to keep the night family-friendly.
The small early crowd grew as the crescent moon rose above the buildings towering over the park. Families ate picnic dinners while sitting on blankets, singles flirted while drinking wine and beer, and friends basked in the glory of some of the best music Houston has heard in a very long time.
Robert's lighthearted humor was also on display last night, although his jokes sometimes failed to hit their mark. "Wow, tough crowd!" he chuckled as he created a set list on the fly with his band. This was the 34th and last show of their tour, which was supposed to start here at Discovery Green a month ago but was rained out and postponed. "You guys are seeing us after all this practice, which is better for y'all!" he confessed.
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He hit on a few songs from 2014's The Lights From The Chemical Plant, such as "Good Intentions" and "Houston." I secretly hoped to hear a few from Photographs, which will always be my personal favorite Robert Ellis album. As I lay down on the grass looking toward the heavens, I could think of nobody better to tell the stories of our city and state than Robert.
"Thank you, Houston!" he shouted. "We love you and tell everyone about you!"
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As do we, sir...Rock on, Space (City) Cowboy!
So, How Was the Opener? Tom Brosseau is an awesome storyteller in his own right, choosing to hit the stage armed only with his acoustic guitar and his harmonica. He told several stories, including the one about Lyle Lovett giving him the nickname Hard Luck Boy as well as the story describing his Norwegian grandmother. Brosseau has the gift of painting a story with his words, filling the air with notes of blues, folk and country music.
"I don't want to set the world on fire; I just want to start a flame in your heart," he sang during a beautiful cover of The Ink Spots classic. Thank you, Tom, for introducing me to my new favorite song.
When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston music scene and beyond. You can follow his adventures on Instagram: @MarcoFromHouston.