Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Eels at Rock City

A day off work means a lazy start but after breakfast it's time to load the car and point it towards Nottingham.  Eels are back in the country and we don't know when their next visit will be so can't miss this tour!  Sadly things start off awry, the daughter is feeling decidedly unwell so makes a mature decision in opting to stay in bed.  This takes the shine off our day, the Princess and I are somber driving north but the show must go on.  We are on our way by 1245.

The journey...  The A14 is in shit order at the moment, there have been major roadworks around Cambridge for over a year and these will continue into the next.  This slows us considerably but we left home with loads of time to spare so no stress.  The queue in the opposite direction is much worse, miles and miles of trucks, many heading to the east coast ports, why are they not on a train?  The A1 seems clear but suddenly traffic grinds to a halt, we inch forward for a mile or so, pass a minor shunt pulled into the edge and shortly after debris all over the inside lane, skid marks and finally a van crunched into the back of a lorry.  A few other vehicles seem to have been caught up in it too.  Thankfully it doesn't look serious.  We get by before the emergency services seal the road and continue northward.  Google revealed this accident closed the A1 for hours and caused miles of tailbacks but thankfully no fatalities.  I've got into the good habit of leaving a large gap between me and the car in front, there are so many fucking idiots on dual carriageways I like to give them space to drive badly.

We got into Nottingham and using my hand written directions (sat nav? fuck off) found the venue and car park easily.  We were loose on the streets of Nottingham around 1600 so had loads of time to kill so went walking, passing the venue I'm sure that's the bass player milling around but my bladder is screaming at me and I can't concentrate...  Into the city, firstly in search of a toilet then a long wander around.  We both fancy pizza but who would have thought the Hut would be so elusive?  Eventually after a long circle we find one, close to where we started...  I quite like Nottingham, I've been here several times, mostly for cricket but occasionally into the city, I find it has a friendlier vibe than most big cities.  After filling up on pizza we find ourselves parked on a bench, nearby there's some kind of street sing/dance performance going on.  It's crap and we wander off before they come round with the begging bowl.

By now there's a queue at the venue, loads of people decked in 'Eels' tour shirts, as are we.  The doors open and the queue moves quickly.  So this is 'Rock City'?  An iconic venue that has been printed in the tour dates on the back of thousands of tee shirts.  It's dark and wide with a small balcony, not as big as I'd imagined but with loads of vantage points should a short arse like me really need to see the stage.  No bitter at the bar!?  I thought this was the north?  I settle for a Guinness but even this comes from the can and I have to ask for a glass/plastic cup thingy.

We sit on the steps and sip, until my backside goes dead and I stand.  A few minutes later the support act arrives.  Hailing from Texas and wearing a white tuxedo and matching cowboy hat he immediately makes the worst kind of impression on me, I consider bolting for the door but pull myself together.  Actually it's not so bad.  The 'Texas piano man' is not my cup of tea but he doesn't have too much of a twang, he doesn't take himself too seriously and his lyrics are full of humour.  I've seen a lot worse but wont be rushing off to buy an album.

It's nearly 2100, we left home hours ago and have been killing time in Nottingham since four but we're only minutes away from seeing our favourite band in the world.  They walk on to the ironic strains of the 'Rocky' theme then as usual start off with a couple of covers including The Who's 'Out in the street' and once again my favourite Prince song 'Raspberry beret'.  The crowd is appreciative but don't really crank it up until Eels play their own tunes.  'Bone dry' has an air of menace, the guitar on 'Flyswatter' sounds like its oozing from hell, 'Dog faced boy' is as sinister as it should be.  The crowd is moving, clapping, singing.  Three dirty arsed, pounding rock tunes has done the trick.

Mr E takes to the mic with his usual wit and invites us to 'soft rock' for a while.  "We haven't played this tune in a very long time... except for last night... and the two nights before that..."  Then goes into "I need some sleep" a classic we've not heard live before; then after 'Dirty Girl' another classic new to us live "In the yard behind the church".  After three relatively mellow tunes it's full power again for 'Prize fighter' and 'Tremendous dynamite'.  and so on...

Rock City is a good venue and the crowd were right up for it.  As nobody ever seems to have heard of 'Eels' it's heartening to be in a room full of like minded people, I don't know where the audiences come from but this band keeps filling halls all around the world, I hope they always will.

Eels are my favourite band, this is the sixth time I've seen them and they are consistently brilliant live.  Mr E is the master songwriter, singer and multi instrumentalist, Chet is a brilliant virtuoso guitarist, Big Al plays a solid base and the latest drummer Little Joe kicks arse.  I love the way they take an old familiar song and completely reinvent it on stage, I don't want to hear the same tunes played the same way year after year I love the altered arrangements.  However this tour is basically a continuation of the one we saw last summer so the look and feel of the band was little changed.  The set was very similar to last year too which takes away some of the "wow factor" you get when you haven't a clue what is coming next but there were still half a dozen or so changes from last time.  If they are true to form the next tour will see a complete change.  

Tune of the night for me was "P.S. You rock my world" which literally had me welling up.  As usual Eels make a mockery of the 'encore charade', this time by coming back on virtually as soon as they have all walked off, twice.  Before the band finished with an instrumental jam, the last recognisable tune of the evening was the end of 'Wonderful Glorious' which sums up the night for me.  This wasn't the best performance I've seen from Eels but it was still wonderful and still glorious.

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We wait for the rush to clear before wandering off, battling with the pay machine in the car park and starting our escape from the big city.  The signage is clear and we get onto the A52 with no trouble.  The roads are quiet too so the drive is much easier until we get towards Cambridge and the A14 diversion from hell adds at least half an hour to the journey.  I swear some fucker had been switching the signs around.  There are far fewer trucks on the road now but every lay by has at least half a dozen parked up.  I back into the drive around 0200, knackered.

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