REVIEW: Curtis Eller’s American Circus, The Greystones

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AT least the owners of this Sheffield pub venue now know their tables will take the weight of a grown American man.

As hyperactive as a Year 10 kid on too much Haribo, the frequent visitor was making his debut in this hilly Sheffield suburb in the wake of previous haunts such as The Grapes, Boardwalk and Shakespeare going silent.

But the banjo-wielding Eller’s reputation precedes him and the intimate Backroom arguably better suited the invasive nature of this unique artist, whose numerous forays into the largely seated crowd – on the floor and on top of tables - brought amusement and volume-controlled vocal accompaniment.

Underpinning the moustachioed Eller’s high-kicks and humour are examples of plaintive Americana and evocative lyricism that touch this inimitable artist’s roots and reflect a man with a big heart and fertile mind.

Late highlight Save Me Joe Lewis, about a death row prisoner’s last words, strikes a very human chord that here brought complete attention from an audience comprising hardcore fans and a sprinkling of initially baffled but swiftly seduced first-timers.

Detroit-born Eller, now a family man of North Carolina having spent many years honing his skills and eccentricity in the Big Apple, was joined by double bass and drums for the first time, which breathed new life into staples such as Hartford Circus Fire and Buster Keaton, as well as giving this heroic performer slightly more to worry about bumping into during one of his trademark spinning/playing routines. Brilliant stuff.

David Dunn