Café Nine, New Haven, May 19 2009 by Rebecca Paiement

You know it's going to be a good night when the opening act is called Al Pist and the audience is replete with aspiring sideshow circus performers, (one who readily, and to the chagrin of this reviewer, showed off his ability to stick all sorts of straws up and through his nostrils), cowboys, jovial drunks, plus the typical array of Stranglers aficionados and other music lovers. Café Nine, a little spot in New Haven, Connecticut, owned and run by tastemaker Paul Mayer, proved the perfect stage for Paul Roberts' and Andy Ellis' intimate, acoustic performance. The two launched into rich versions of Soulsec tunes such as 8 Days and Under the Stars as well as MKII classics (She Gave it All was a highlight plus Valley of the Birds) and even a few evolved covers by the likes of The Kinks (Sunny Afternoon) and Johnny Cash (Ring of Fire). Roberts' vocals enraptured and, every bit the raconteur, his stories in between songs connected with and amused the audience. Meanwhile, Ellis' expert guitar was, if possible, more inspired than usual by this warm, friendly bar and its hometown crowd. The set was crowned by two encores and a few unexpected duets, namely with the aforementioned jovial drunk. The devoted fans were elated and those new to Soulsec are now diehards. Everyone snatched up the available Soulsec CDs and a return is in the works.

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