EELS MAKE A TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO GLASGOW WITH A SOLD-OUT PERFORMANCE AT O2 ACADEMY
“I’m back… and I’m sane!” jests Mark Everett towards the start of Eels’ 4th of July show at the O2 Academy in Glasgow. Billed as ‘The Triumphant Return of the Eels’, the idea that the alternative rock outfit could bring a comedic tone to their performance was surprising and unusually effective. Finding success with their debut album ‘Beautiful Freak’ in 1996 as one of the first signings to the DreamWorks label, Eels has been the vessel that singer/songwriter Mark Everett has used extensively to talk about death, family, relationships and depression. 22 years and 12 studio albums later Mark has explored new paths but ultimately kept his signature tone on newly released album ‘The Deconstruction’, highlights from which are scattered throughout the nearly 2 hour set.
As Mark Everett is the only consistent member of Eels, touring bands have changed over the years to be large rock bands, string ensembles, brass bands and often just Everett himself acoustically or on piano. However, the set-up for this tour presented a more traditional rock set up of simply guitar, bass and drums. This instantly provoked the challenge of performing much of their material live which more often than not have string or piano arrangements. The garage-rock vibe worked surprisingly well and gave their set a healthy dose of energy through a trash punk rendition of “I Like Birds” and a heavy psychedelic alt rock “Novocaine for the Soul”. Some arrangements worked better than others with simplified version of the iconic “Mr E’s Beautiful Blues” feeling lacking. The band handled the arrangements of the songs well, especially since Everett rarely picked up a guitar during the whole set and instead waltzed around the stage in double denim, sunglasses and cowboy boots which only someone with his Tom Waits-esque, cigar and whisky stained voice could get away with. His stagecraft was slick and chat entertaining, the Glasgow crowd responding well to various jests and musings as well as his comedic interplay with the rest of the band. Everett’s charisma came across as a surprise due to the nihilistic qualities expressed through his music. It was great to see the famously troubled man on such good form.
The set was well balanced with cuts from right across Eels’ discography. Surprisingly the night opened with two covers: The Who’s “Out in the Street” and Prince’s “Raspberry Beret”. The faithfulness of the songs to the original made it come across as a bit karaoke and I feel performances only started to become interesting once they fired into their first original track “Bone Dry” three songs in. Despite a novelty start, the set continued on to be varied and laced with classics such as “Flyswatter”, “Souljacker pt.I”, “Dirty Girl” and “I Like The Way This Is Going”. The set jumped often between heavier rock-driven tracks and softer more stripped back tunes such as “Climbing Up To The Moon” and “I’m Going To Stop Pretending That I Didn’t Break Your Heart”. The mellow tracks were the standout performances as they allowed Everett’s husky voice to fill out the room and the band to compliment the arrangements fantastically using swells and effects. 2 covers made an entrance into the set later on: Prince’s “When You Were Mine” which was leaps and bounds better than the previous Prince attempt as Everett managed to perform the song in more of his signature style. Finally, after 2 instances of leaving the stage, Everett bowed out with a cover of Brian Wilson’s “Love and Mercy”. This was handled fantastically and if I left wanting one thing it was a recorded version of Wilson’s classic track from Eels. Incorporating the final stanza of the title track from ‘Wonderful. Glorious’ at the end, Everett’s final words on stage were “My love has brought me here to show you it’s true. A wretch like me, you’ll make it through”. After 22 years of writing about his disillusionment, these words couldn’t have had more impact.