July 21, 2011
Better than: being mistaken for a terrorist at an airport.
From frontman Mark Oliver Everett's dramatic entrance after his band had already begun their opening number, to his exit before they had finished their last one it was clear every moment of Eels' performance last night at The Granada Theater was well thought out.
From the dapper vests, ties, and newsboy hats the band members wore, to their well-endowed beards, the elaborate band introductions, and perfectly choreographed light show, it was more than evident that every bit of their performance was pre-calculated. The rare moments he caught band mates off guard, perhaps, were the exuberant high-fives he would randomly dole out between especially uplifting tunes.
But it didn't come off in a disingenuous way; rather more like a throwback to the James Brown era when performers understood the finer points of showmanship as well as the fact that in a live setting the entertainment aspect is just important as the art -- if not more so. And E, as Everett is known on stage, proved to be the consummate showman, not just fronting his seven-piece band, but actually leading it. Make no mistake; there is a big distinction between the two.
The songs themselves, spanning from all across Eels' nine album discography, were much more massive for this tour than their often lo-fi recorded counterparts, beefed up by three guitars and a horn section that rotated between saxophone, flute, trumpet, trombone, and flugelhorn. It was all very similar to the wall of sound created at many of Andrew WK's live performances, where extra guitars and group vocals add layers of broadness and volume to the overall feel without over-complicating things or deviating too far from Eels' minimalistic arrangements.
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And like WK, E was also overwhelmingly positive and seemingly genuinely glad to be there, obviously appreciative of what he gets to do for a living. Nevermore was this apparent than the various times throughout the set when he'd emphatically yell into the mic things like "You have a nice smile," or "You are good looking" or "That was positive" or my favorite, "I feel happy in my pants."
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Then two over-the-top encores later (four songs total) as the band finally retreated into the night, they solidified two points E brought up in our earlier phone chat: E is most definitely a rock star, and their current tour is indeed the feel-good show of the summer.
Personal bias: Being a horn player I could have used way more of the horn section in the mix.
Random note: High points in the set mostly were songs off the Hombre Lobo album which translated more seamlessly into the big band format and also benefited most from the bigger/more aggressive sounds. But the biggest highlight still might have been the band's cover of Sly & The Family Stone's "Hot Fun in the Summertime."
By The Way: Besides the charming indie-duo Submarines the other opener was David Slick, a juggler of various glowing objects and fire-eater whose backing music at one point included Eifel 65.