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.