Eels love being Eels.
Within seconds of the band coming onstage, there’s a palpable sense that the only ambition the musicians involved have is to be here, right now, playing music.
Of course, it helps that the music they’re playing is inherently fun. Clad head to toe in matching black-and-white adidas tracksuits (plus Sambas) the band is rocking out. Guitars are turned up to eleven, drums are smashed and E’s vocal chords take a pounding like never before.
Reference points include Blue Cheer and brattish garage-punk, while a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’ allows the band to channel its inner Peter Green. For the most part, the set focuses on recent material with songs from the highly recommended ‘Wonderful, Glorious’ (Clash review) coming to the fore.
Yet the band is keenly aware that Eels onstage is a different proposition from Eels in the studio. The aim is to entertain, with E helming an extended segment to introduce the band. Each member gets their own jingle, with drummer Knuckles providing an inspired turn on ‘Go Knuckles’ before Eels gather to pastiche the Beatles on ‘Let It E’.
E is, as always, the genial host. Completely in his element, the singer alternates between bantering with the crowd and inviting the band to his podium for a group hug. Of course, it’s not without faults – a problem with the bass provides an unanticipated delay, while a fan fainting in the front row causes E to leap down and offer his help. But the sheer zest and energy from onstage livens the most mundane of tech issues.
Throughout, Eels balance that thin line between the entertaining and the absurd, with a gloriously unkempt vision of their own back catalogue helping to challenge even the most casual preconception.
Still capable of playing it straight when he wants to, E provides a few genuine lump-in-throat moments. The frontman gently intones ‘Climbing To The Moon’, its childish naivety seeming to echo around this historic venue.
Playing two encores, Eels keep their two best-known tracks for the end. Fusing ‘My Beloved Monster’ and ‘Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’ into an off-kilter mash-up, this irreverence is key to their central appeal. Combined studies in self-mocking and rocking, there’s plenty of life in the ‘Dog Faced Boy’ yet.
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Stream tracks by Eels via Deezer, below...