Newly released Elliott Smith footage bestows uncomfortable honor
You know that one home video you have, once a dusty VHS tape, now the earliest recorded .mov in your video library? You've watched it periodically for years and every time you watch it, there's something new about everyone who appears in it. What was mundane then is now interesting, maybe because you can't remember who you were or what you were thinking when you were actually there. It's seeing what other people see when they see you — the enigmatic, distant, celebrity version of you.
A video of the late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith performing on a VH1 pilot for The Jon Brion Show back in 2000 elicits a similar kind of haunting fascination. The recording was recently found and posted to YouTube by the pilot's director, Paul Thomas Anderson. In the 43-minute-long video, Smith performs some of his most famous songs, including "Son of Sam," "Independence Day," and "Bottle Up and Explode." Host Jon Brion accompanies on most of the songs.
While seeing Smith perform in 2000 might still have meant seeing a celebrity, his posthumous recognition does beg the question, "What did we think of him then?" Based on this recording, it would seem we thought of him as a rising star — but then, this performance did become the pilot of a show that never got picked up by the mainstream.
Surely some of the video's intrigue can be attributed to our underlying cognizance of the artist's violent end. After struggling with depression and addiction, Smith's body was found with stab wounds to his chest in his LA apartment in 2003. Knowing that we are some of the first eyes to see this Smith performance almost 13 years after his death seems a kind of uncomfortable honor.
|The Jon Brion Show - Feat. Elliott Smith / Brad Mehldau ('00)|