So here’s the weird thing about the Eels. I loved them, really loved them. I remember importing Beautiful Freak from Glasgow’s Tower Records before it was available in the UK. I also thought Electro-Shock Blues is one of the best albums ever released when it made its debut in 1998.
I’ve seen the band live many times, the most recent of those was in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall when E and Chet toured “An Evening with the Eels”; a splendid greatest hits-style show with readings of excerpts from E’s autobiography “Things The Grandchildren Should Know”. It is still one of my favourite gigs, but then I just stopped going to see the band.
It is hard to explain why I stopped, although I think Blinking Lights and Other Revelations put me off somewhat. It is a 33-track double-album and I didn’t enjoy it. Too many songs all starting to sound the same as previous album songs. I stepped away from Eels and three further albums have been released which I didn’t buy, listen to, or know anything about.
Eels played Glasgow six months ago and I didn’t even consider going. This time around, fellow “scrambler” Graeme mentioned the band were back around, and they were playing the intimate and slightly brilliant ABC in Glasgow. We decided to go along.
Coming onstage to ‘Cancer for the Cure’ from my best album ever in 1998, Electro-Shock Blues I was smitten from the start. The stage set up was not a regular layout. For a start Knuckles’ drum kit was at the front, off to the left and facing in toward the band. E stood to the right of the stage, whilst three guitarists stood at the back on a (drum?) riser bridging the space between Knuckles and E. The band all, also wore matching black Addidas tracksuits and sunglasses. They looked bizarrely cool, and also reminiscent of an advert for a popular telephone directory service company.
After second song ‘Kinda Fuzzy’ from new album Wonderful, Glorious E turned to the band and shouted “Wow! Wow! The bass was amazing!! Come down here and give me a hug.” Given the stage layout and matching clothes, the sight of E being lifted off his feet as he received a bear-hug seemed perfectly normal. Similarly after End Times’ _Tremendous Dynamite_ – which sounded absolutely fantastic – E proclaimed “Wowie. Wowie zowie. Who does that shit? Knuckles does that shit!” referring to Drummer Knuckles’ playing.
A superb cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’, ‘Peach Blossom’ (one for the ladies complete with keep fit antics) and Prizefighter among others all came and went. All the time I watched I couldn’t believe (or had forgotten) the dynamic ability of the band, and how much they seem like the kind of band you just want to be in. Or at least be friends with.
Soon it was time for band introductions. The band played the intro to The Who’s ‘Who Are You?’ to introduce the, erm, introductions.
For Honest Al, the band played Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”, when introducing The Chet the band struck up some bars of Wings “Jet”. Highly amusing and a bit haphazard with E apologising, “Sorry ladies and gentlemen we should’ve rehearsed this…Besides, how come I don’t get a song?”
The band instantly started playing The Beatles ‘Let It (B)e’ two choruses or so later with E shouting “Fuck sake I love it!, I love it!” too much hilarity. Finally we get Eels song ‘Go Knuckles’ for Knuckles. All good fun, kinda cool, and completely the sort of thing you come to not expect from the Eels live.
As we neared the end of the show (venue has an annoying 10pm curfew) E’s proclaims “Let’s play two more….” Only to have a stagehand come out and say “One”. Clearly part of the show and not a venue official, the boos and cheers call and response from the crowd still raised a chuckle. “OK time for one more, but I have an idea – follow me guys”
The band played a mash-up of ‘My Beloved Monster’ and ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’ as one song. Hard to explain how good this actually was, but it was impressive indeed. Mainly ‘My Beloved Monster’ verses and “God damned right it’s a beautiful day” chorus. Bizarrely it worked very well. E shouting “It’s a mash-up!!” with childlike glee during one verse only added to the amusement.
As the song came to a close to shouts of “I’m exhausted. That was two songs in one!” E then asks “…the members of the eels to join me right now in a group hug.” And they were off.
Soon after the band returned and played a faithfully pure version of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Beast of Burden’ and ‘Fresh Blood’ before heading off with a cheeky “We would play all night if we could…but it’s all we are allowed to do.”.
I later found out that they came back 10 minutes after the house lights went up and played to a largely empty room. A customary “secret encore” complete with girls with 40s hairstyles dancing to ‘Dog Faced Boy’. I had forgotten they used to do this; been out the Eels loop way too long. Saddened I missed it, but also amused to hear it happened and even further underlines the fun and playful approach Eels take to playing live.
To repeat what I said at the start of this review, I used to love the Eels. I lost touch with them around 2006 and hadn’t seen them live again until Tuesday night. I knew all of about 6 songs played (some of those were covers), and yet I was transfixed and loved every minute. I can’t tell you a complete setlist as I don’t know the songs. But even as I write this I am catching up with a lost love, playing the albums they released when we didn’t talk and I didn’t have before Tuesday night.