17th March 2013
Back on the road in support of his tenth record under the Eels moniker, Mark Oliver Everett – or E, as he’s known whilst on band duty – is not a musician I’d had the opportunity to see live before. A friend of mine, who’s a die-hard Eels fan, had done little to provide a clear picture of what I should expect from a frontman known to be a little difficult at times. “Sometimes, he’ll come on, play the songs and get off without uttering a word, and other times he’ll be hilarious, interacting with the crowd all night and generally putting on a great show.”
Tonight, it’s the latter that’s the case, as E stakes a convincing claim for the title of indie rock’s most enthralling frontman. Decked out, like his bandmates, in an Adidas tracksuit, he’s on rare form throughout, joking with both band and crowd and even, at one point, pausing to ‘renew his vows’ with guitarist The Chet, before drummer Knuckles delivers a stirring rendition of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’; the band reciprocate with an quick, improvised jam, ‘Go Knuckles!’, by way of thanks.
The evening’s setlist, unsurprisingly, leans heavily on latet effort Wonderful, Glorious; with ten records and a raft of EPs already behind them, you have to wonder exactly how you’d best go about putting together a running order for an Eels show. It’s a little surprising, then, that they’re able to accommodate the straight-up hard rockers, which dominate their repertoire tonight, as well as a few quieter moments; ‘The Turnaround’ and ‘Dirty Girl’ are particular highlights. Inevitably, there’s a host of disappointing high-profile exclusions, but at least the band have strived to find creative ways to squeeze as much into each show as possible – an inventive mashup of ‘My Beloved Monster’ and ‘Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues’ opens the encore.
The real triumph tonight, though, is E himself; so often portrayed as awkward and brooding, onstage he’s a revelation; personable and witty, he makes the Eels live show one of the most consistently entertaining on the circuit.