“Let’s do one that goes back to the 1900s, before you were alive,” says Mark Oliver Everett, known mainly as E from the Eels, as he presides from high atop his “lead-singer riser” at the front of the stage.
“You would have hated it,” he continues, referring to the ’90s. “I barely got through it myself.” Then the band launches into “Climbing to the Moon” from ’98’s Electro-Shock Blues
This is the chirpy, happier, less Unabomber E. Between songs, he hugs his bandmates and during songs, dances like a monkey (“Peach Blossom”) or plays a rainstick with a look that says “yeah, man, I’m totally playing this rain stick.” Because E can do what we wants, really. He lived through the 1900s. But did I expect the humour? Frankly, not really.
Which brings us to to the band’s matching full Adidas tracksuits. The roadies were in dark grey, the band in blue and white. If the Hives can wear suits, Eels can wear nylon. And I can go home with with the pink Eels Y-front underwear that I have purchased at the merch booth.
From suits to schtick: E introduces the band (“Let’s not lie, we’re on FIRE! THIS SHIT IS ON! No need for false modesty” – and he was right), by way of nicknames. Guitarist Mike Sawitzke is P-Boo, other guitarist Jeff Lyster is “the Chet”, and has been playing with E for 10 years. E makes a big deal of this, in fact, and invites Reverend/Tiny Al (bassist Allen Hunter, though E. introduces him as “Insert Your Name Here”) to preside over their “renewal of
vows” as “bros” on the lead-singer riser… while drummer Knuckles (Derek Brown) plays “Wind Beneath My Wings”. There’s also discussion about Al’s legal ability to be an “ordained reverend” here in the northlands. “It’s probably cool. Canada doesn’t give a shit about God… right?” E asks, in the way he asked “that must be her sister…right?” in “Susan’s House” back in the 1900s.
It’s folly, of course, and they do this in other cities. But I wasn’t at the Minneapolis show, so whatever.
And if you’re going to follow with a cover of the Small Faces’ classic “Itchycoo Park”, then wonderful! In fact, one should probably always follow folly with psychedelic sunshine. (Or precede it with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”, which also happened.)
So, to the music. New album Wonderful Glorious gets a serious airing, which is fine; it’s a pretty good platter. Am thrilled when they kick off with the swamp sludge of “Bombs Away” – because it’s a perfect gig cri de coeur. “Kinda Fuzzy” – another slacker rallying cry: “I’m feeling kinda fuzzy, but I know it’s alright”- comes next and we’re off to a great start. “Open My Present”, “On the Ropes”, “New Alphabet” and “I’m Your Brave Little Soldier” (in Encore #1) also get spun. Oldie “Fresh Feeling” gets a slightly more alive reaction from the notoriously embalmed Tdot audience (file under Things I Do Not Miss About Toronto).
And me? I want more rockin’ swamp sludge. I’m all for “Souljacker Part 1″ and the cuddly bulldog skulking the lead-singer riser with his maraca. And I’m all about having fun. And so, too, it seems, is E. Particularly when it comes time for Song #2 of Encore #1: ”Let’s do that thing the record company wants us to do,” he says when the band re-takes to the stage.
“What do they call it? Mash-ups? They say ‘you’re old now, you gotta compete with the Beyoncés of the world…” So he does a mash-up. Minus, you know, anything like Beyoncé and more a “My Beloved Monster”/”Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues” cross. Then the band leaves.
Then the band comes back again for Encore #2 and does “Fresh Blood.” Then the band leaves. And the crowd leaves. And the crowd goes to get its coat. And the lights come on. And the grey-tracksuited crew start ripping up setlists and tearing down the lead-singer riser. And a few of us mill about, dazed, cos it was a really good show.
Then the band comes back out.
Yep, Encore #3. And monkey-dancing maraca man decides to do “Dog-Faced Boy.” And though the venue owners are whispering (probably) about a curfew, the band plays on. And who cares if they do this at other shows, because it’s all about this show. And THIS show was worth buying underwear for. \m/
Eels live in Toronto was presented by the fine folks at Collective Concerts. For tix to rad TO shows, visit www.collectiveconcerts.com