Kill Rock Stars has posted five previously unreleased videos to YouTube of the late Elliott Smith performing five songs on New Years Eve 1999 at The Knitting Factory in New York City.
The singer-songwriter plays solo acoustic versions of “The Biggest Lie,” “Say Yes,” “Last Call,” “Coming Up Roses,” and “The Ballad of Big Nothing.”
In 1998, Smith released XO, his first real foray into a full band sound. The Knitting Factory set, however, draws from his mostly-acoustic albums Elliott Smith, Either/Or, released by Kill Rock Stars, and Roman Candle, from Cavity Search.
The intimate performance is casual, a seemingly relaxed Smith playing beloved older songs. “The Ballad of Big Nothing” is a highlight: slightly faster than the Either/Or version, but no less cutting when he sings, “Getting into the back of a car, taking candy from some stranger/ Watching the parade with pinpoint eyes, full of smoldering anger.”
Elliott Smith would die less than four years later, when he committed suicide on October 21, 2003, by two stab wounds to the chest. His death has continued to have a profound impact on fans and artists, and even these amateur videos of him playing a few songs are both beautiful and a little chilling.
Since his death, there have been many posthumous releases, including Smith’s last official LP, From a Basement on the Hill, in 2004, and New Moon, a double album of songs Smith recorded between 1994 and 1997. There have been biographies, a greatest hits compilation, memorial concerts, and a documentary.
His story is an incredible one, captured in the 2014 documentary Heaven Adores You. Fourteen years after his death, ephemera like these videos are still popping up. You can watch them, and his fantastic appearance on the very short-lived “Jon Brion Show,” below: