Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Eels. Norwich UEA 26/03/13

Eels are my favourite band.  I haven’t had a favourite band since I was a lad but now I’ve found another group that has made me become fanatical.  They’ve been around for years and although I remembered a few tunes I’ve only really discovered them recently.  Two years ago I was looking forward to my first Latitude festival later that year, Eels were one of the very few names on the bill that I recognised.  In early summer the BBC played some Glastonbury footage including “Novocaine for the soul” by Eels.  I remembered the tune and the band sounded great so I took the plunge and bought the “Essential” collection.  Within a few weeks I was hooked and the show at Latitude was brilliant, the undoubted highlight of the weekend.  The essential Eels became our car soundtrack for the summer holiday and by the end, the whole family loved it.

I keep referring to Eels as a band but in reality the only constant member is Mark Oliver Everett, or as he is more commonly known “E”.  He is the man behind the music, the main songwriter, the voice and he plays a variety of instruments.  His songs are brilliant but he writes in such a way you really don’t know what he’s on about at first.  It may take a few listens before something clicks and you understand it then think “that’s genius!”  You finally realise the song is even more brilliant than you first suspected.  E’s writing covers all kinds of subjects and is often autobiographical.  He has led a unique and often tragic life so has a well of life experience to draw on.  He writes many beautiful love songs that are disguised by rock guitar and brilliant, twisted lyrics.
“The look you give that guy I wanna see, looking straight at me
  If I could be that guy instead of me, I’d never let you down…”
Just one of very many examples.

On the crisp, cold evening of 26th March the lovely lady and I climbed into the car with Mr & Mrs Green and headed north to the UEA at Norwich.  The good lady and I have looked forward to this gig for months and it was finally here, I hadn’t been this excited in years.  Mr & Mrs Green were in the same position as the lovely lady and I were at Latitude, they were familiar with a few Eels tunes but had no idea what the concert would be like.  Refreshment flowed on the journey as an almost full moon climbed in the eastern sky.  We arrived with plenty of time to spare and took full advantage of more refreshment.

The UEA is a great little venue, big enough to hold a decent crowd yet small enough to seem intimate and there was a good crowd in tonight.  Apologies to the young girl singer from New Jersey who was support act.  I didn’t really see or listen not because she was bad in anyway it’s just she wasn’t Eels.  She finished her set, the crowd thinned out slightly then led by Mrs Green we found our way into the crowd, a good spot a few yards back from the stage with room to dance.  Nervous chatter, lights go out then “Bombs away”, Eels hit the stage!

So the show… I’ve already expressed my love for Eels so you know I may be biased but they were absolutely fantastic.  I’d built this gig up for months but there was no disappointment, they were superb.  Five top musicians hammering a massive rock sound out of their instruments, then slowing the pace to a crawl to play some of E’s more mellow tunes.  I can’t tell you enough just how good these guys can play, top notch. This was as good a performance as I’ve seen from any musician in the thirty years I’ve been gigging and by the second song Mr & Mrs Green were boogieing away, total converts. The set was mostly newer tunes from “Wonderful Glorious” and also a few from “Hombre Lobo” with a few old favourites too.  Highlights for me were “Tremendous Dynamite”, “Prizefighter”, “In my Dreams” and best of all a version of “Fresh feeling” that sounded so different to the album that I didn’t recognise it until the vocal.  Some critics may have preferred to see more older tunes but E has never written a bad song and whatever this band plays will sound fantastic, like the cover of “Ichykoo Park”.    It occurred to me that the two times I’ve seen Eels they have played two completely different sets, there was hardly a song tonight that featured at Latitude.  They could play another completely different set of tunes tomorrow and it would still be just as good, E has made so much good music that’s both clever and fun!

Something I look for in a gig are signs that the band are enjoying themselves and Eels look like they’re having a blast.  This line up has gigged around the world together, they play tight and they seem to be good mates, there seems to be a “Team Eels”, a one for all and all for one mentality.  E is a confident front man with a great rock voice and a sense of humour that reaches people.  Eels are a great band and they know it but they definitely don’t take themselves too seriously.

The set finished with the title track of the new album then they were back for an encore which included a mash up of “Beloved Monster” and “Beautiful blues” then gone.  The lights came on and many started heading for home but we hung around on the floor in awe of a great performance.  But there was more, just when we were thinking of leaving back they came again for another quick couple of tunes, “Go Eels…go home”.  So we did, with more refreshment and great music in the car (LCD Sound system) the journey home was too quick.  After hugging our friends goodbye, the good lady and I decided we were too hyper for bed so wrapped up warm and went for a long stroll under the moon and stars, crunching through the frosty fields till the early hours.

Mark “E” Everett is a quite brilliant songwriter and Eels are the coolest rock band on the planet and they can bloody well play bloody well!  If you get the chance go and see for yourself.
 Oh and England got a draw in the cricket, well played Bell & Prior!  More on this soon.

Sunday, 24 March 2013


Where do the days go?  Rain ruined the second test and here we are after three days of the final match with England staring down the barrel of a series defeat.  This New Zealand side have a good looking batting line up which should see them climb the rankings over the next few years but their bowlers haven’t looked as good.  They have been good enough to dismiss England cheaply twice however and if they can do it a third time they’ll deserve the series win.  England haven’t played as well as they can in this series but if they can find their best form over the final two days then they are good enough to at least save this series.

Here on an English spring Sunday the temperature is -2 and we have several inches of snow on the ground with more falling, it’s bloody horrible.  I’m usually pretty relaxed about the weather, we get what we get and it’s mostly shit but this winter has gone on forever, it’s become oppressive.  According to the Sunday papers it's the longest winter for fifty years.  I can’t wait for spring, even ten degrees will feel like a heat wave and people will be smiling again.

I finished reading “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess recently, this story is probably more famous through Stanley Kubrick’s film. Published in 1962 the story is a grim prediction of a future where society has crumbled and gangs of teenage thugs own the streets.  The state responds, attempting to crush this with police brutality and mind control.  In the background politicians try to manipulate the situation in an attempt to win votes.  Fifty years on how far wrong was Burgess’ vision?
It’s told in the first person through fifteen year old Alex, a character who likes nothing more than getting high, mugging, rape and “ultra violence”.  He’s not a very nice lad and the teen slang he uses called “Nadsat” is hard to pick up at first.  Eventually the reader picks it up but it’s difficult to follow and makes reading it a chore.  Does Alex deserve the things he eventually goes through?  Does he truly repent or does he just grow up?
This is a clever book, skilfully written and it works far better than “A Catcher in the Rye” for me but it is a pain in the arse to read at times.

Next up was “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel and this I really did enjoy.  Nothing I’d seen in the film trailer made me want to learn anything more about the story but the kids were getting itchy feet in the bookshop, there was a 3 for 2 deal so I thought this would do for my third choice.  Pi, Aka Piscine Molitar Patel is a young Indian lad who is fortunate enough to live in a zoo.  The book starts here and goes nowhere for a while until the life changing news that his family are emigrating to Canada.  The animals have all been sold, mostly to North American zoos so all are to travel to the continent across the pacific on a cargo ship.  Things go wrong, the story begins and from here it is hard to stop reading.  Pi finds himself adrift in a lifeboat with minimal survival supplies but a strong will to live.  He is not alone in the lifeboat however…
The short chapters make this book easy to dip in and out of, it is written in a way that filled my mind with the scenes and images.  Even the brutal passages are told in an almost matter of fact way.  At the end I know what I wanted to believe but... I really enjoyed “Life of Pi”, probably the best book I’ve read this so far this year. 

Thursday, 14 March 2013


The first test has come and gone with an entertaining draw.  England were awful for a day then got back on track and without dominating were comfortable thereafter.  Jimmy got in the wickets, Cook got his customary ton and Compton eased personal pressure with his maiden test century.  It’s now nearly lunch on the second day of the second test with England a bit wobbly on 340-5 but still in control of the match.  Compton scored another hundred and this time Trott got to three figures.  The KPego is currently in the 60’s and I may well tune the radio in when I drift off to sleep.  I expect England to bat for most of the day then dominate the match but it might not be easy to bowl the Kiwis out twice.

I re-read Phillip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy recently.  Almost a decade must have passed since the first time I enjoyed this epic series.  I really enjoyed it back then and knew that one day I’d pick it up again.  Part one, “Northern Lights”, starts slowly but gathers pace and by the end it’s ripping along.  Before you know it you are well stuck into “The Subtle Knife”, the single narrative has branched out into unexpected directions.  Whenever I re-read a novel I always notice things that weren’t apparent before which enriches the story all the more so.  By the midpoint of the trilogy this is most certainly the case.  “Lyra and her Daemon…” find themselves on a journey which takes her to places beyond her imagination.  Along the way she meets “Will” and the two faces ordeal and terror.  As the story moves into the second half it becomes deeper and darker and in places “The Amber Spyglass” is very bleak.  Pullman covers all manner of themes; Science, racism, climate change, friendship, love and so on, not much is left untouched upon.  This book takes a huge swipe at religion (Catholicism?) and the book was infamous for this at the time.
For some reason I didn’t enjoy the second half of the story as much as the first this time around.  This time it just wasn’t as emotional as it had been before.  Because I mostly remembered what happened the highs weren’t as high and the lows weren’t as low.  That said it’s still a fabulous book that you just have to read, it won’t end how you think either.
By the way, I reviewed another of Pullman’s books here;