Monday, June 27, 2005

Live Review: Eels (with Strings)@Park West 6/22/05

Unfortunately for most people, Eels will always be just another one-hit wonder from the days when alternative rock ruled the airwaves. However, a lot like how The Flaming Lips were/are much more than their alterna-hit "She Don't Use Jelly," the history of Eels does not begin and end with "Novocaine for the Soul." Led by mad genius front man "E" (aka Mark Oliver Everett) and a rotating cast of bandmates, Eels are still producing brilliant pop gems almost 10 years after their smash debut album, Beautiful Freak. Admitingly, even though I've always liked Eels and never thought of them as a one-hit wonder band, I wasn't always convinced of their brilliance. I loved "Novocaine..." and "Your Lucky Day in Hell" from the debut, and its follow-up, Electro-Shock Blues was easily one of my favorite records in 1998. However, by the time the third record came out, Daises of the Galaxy, I had kind of lost interest in the band and probably never would even thought of making an effort to go see them live. Then in 2001, Everett dropped the Souljacker record and my love of Eels was completely restored. In fact, I would say that I went from a casual admirer of the band, to a full-fledged fan thanks to this record. Combining Everett's usual dark and cynical lyrics with the gritty guitar work of album collaborator John Parish (PJ Harvey), Souljacker just flat out rocked. And then I saw them live... Even though my faith had been restored in the band, for some reason I still wasn't expecting their live show to be that good. I couldn't have been more wrong. As much as Souljacker rocked, the Souljacker tour rocked even more. I was totally blown away and afterward I was completely convinced: Everett is truly a musical genius. Seeing Eels perform last week week at Park West, I was convinced of this fact once again. This show rocked just as much, but in a completely different way. This time around, Everett brought with him a completely different backing band, both in terms of members , musical style and approach. Actually dubbed as "Eels with Strings," the performance consisted of Everett (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, celeste, pump organ) backed up by a 4-piece string section, a bass player on an acoustic upright and a sixth member ("The Chet") who played everything from a lap steel guitar to the saw to a minimal drum kit. Everett sounded great as always, the string arrangements were achingly beautiful and the subtle augmentation of lap steel guitar and musical saw sounded absolutely amazing. The music of Eels had never sounded better and once again I was blown away by Everett and his assembled supporting cast. If you've never seen Eels live or maybe haven't even heard the name mentioned since 1996, do yourself a favor and check them out next time they are in town. I don't think Eels are a band you have to see live in order to "get it," but it certainly helps. Also, if you happen to be checking out Everett and Co. this week on the East Coast, don't leave the show when the lights come up. If you stick around, you'll be treated to one last encore performance from the band, with Everett returning to the stage in his jammies. (seriously, I'm not making this up...) Did I mention this guy is a mad genius?? Listen and watch a live performance of Eels with Strings on KCRW here Listen to E playing solo and chatting it up with former Sex Pistol Steve Jones on LA's Indie 103 here


Blogger Brad K said...

Also check out this great article about the latest Eels record and E's bizarre and tragic life story:

6/27/2005 10:29:00 PM  

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