Friday, September 6, 2013

Live Review: Eels, O2 Academy, Newcastle, 04/09/2013

Not many artists gain a kick from playing to a half-empty room once their gig has ended, but then Mark Oliver Everett - aka E - is no ordinary frontman. The maverick genius behind the Eels, E's boundless wit and tragic past have granted him a rather unique sense of humour, and one which caught out many fans who left Wednesday's show at the O2 Academy promptly after the lights went up. With much of their crowd spilling out onto Newcastle's streets, the group suddenly sprung back onstage to the delight of a few hundred stragglers, who'd already enjoyed a tremendous innings complete with two encores. We should have seen it coming really; and it proved a fabulous way to end the night, even if the main gig itself left little to be desired.

Heavy on amped-up rock and material from latest album Wonderful, Glorious, the night's setlist reeled off many of E's more muscular tunes, with the filthy stomp of "Dog Faced Boy" and golden jubilance of "Prizefighter" especially excellent. The new record is solid rather than spectacular, but its songs all slotted in nicely, particularly "Peach Blossom," whose melodic crunch is sure to see it remain a live fixture long after this tour has comes to an end. There was, of course, also room for a healthy dose of trademark melancholy, although these tracks tended to be recent favourites as opposed to the bruised outpourings of grief from earlier records. Indeed, it was perhaps telling that E got his darkest number - "Cancer for the Cure," from 1998's heartbreaking masterpiece Electro-Shock Blues - out the way first, after which he was in distinctly buoyant mood.

Whether he was goofing around during songs, keeping his audience entertained between them, or melding two of his most loved into one (as was the case with "My Beloved Monster" and "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues"), this was a show which thrived through the strength of his personality, a notion which likewise applies to his finest music. The crowd, needless to say, lapped it all up, and without exception left with smiles stretched across faces - even those who weren't lucky enough to witness the closing stunt. In fact, it's that predictability and not knowing what to expect which makes Eels such a great live band, and is partly why their next visit can't come soon enough.


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