Published May 17, 2010Bill Fox is a name you've probably never heard before, but that's just the way he likes it. To Fox's apparent chagrin, there has been a resurgence of interest in the myth surrounding the reluctant cult hero, something he treats with a seasoned ambivalence. Of course, his reticence has only heightened the cult status of this one-time singer of '80s act the Mice, leading Cleveland's favourite hermit to end up in Montreal for Kelp Records' 16th birthday bash.
Fox started playing to a modest audience perched at attention. Unfortunately, after a few songs, the crowd's initial zeal waned. Maybe because of this, Fox sailed through his set list hastily. Each song bled into the next with such negligible variance that the performance itself felt like it could've been one long composition.
Fox is a sheepish and curt performer. His eyes barely flicked up from the floor and he rarely addressed the audience. Apart from the obligatory "it's great to be here in [insert city name here]," his stage show was piercingly to the point.
The singer-songwriter played generously from his two solo albums, 1996's Shelter From the Smoke and 1998's Transit Byzantium. Arguably, his set would have benefited from the lush sounds that are found on his records, and this particular performance made his songs sound somewhat interchangeable.
Fox was at his best when his voice shifted to a howl for the gem, "My Baby Cryin'," but shortly afterward his voice returned to sounding like a creaky door that sometimes invited the audience in and occasionally shut them out. This somehow works because Fox sings and performs with an earnestness that Elliott Smith would've punched him in the face to have.
Fox's aversion to the public might be a construct, but that's something you could Rubik's Cube until your brain hemorrhages. What's certain is that he sings well-crafted songs with sincerity and the kind of perfectly placed chip on his shoulder most of us only hope for.