Eels: O2 Academy, Liverpool – live review
O2 Academy, Liverpool
Thursday 5th September
Eels played Liverpool and Sean Diamond went along for Louder Than War to watch them straddle a few genres.
First time for everything. First time I am about to witness the Eels live experience, having followed their music fairly closely for the past sixteen years or so. Essentially a vehicle for Mark ‘E’ Everett, the son of a world famous physician who died of heart failure in 1982, many of their songs are infused with an essentially world weary yet strangely hopeful outlook on life; a tormented mind attempting to seek redemption in a world of shit, trying to make sense of the whole sorry mess. Everett is one of those musicians able to straddle the balance between rock, pop, introspection, geek and chic to both his and the fans advantage, constantly changing line ups and seeking new ideas and production methods to prevent his woes from swallowing the entertainment up whole. More on this very soon…
Eels are known for their eccentric choices of support acts. First we have a local conjuror entertaining the crowd with card tricks, next up it’s a duo who go by the name of The Bloom Twins, a pair of 17 year old twin sisters from Ukraine. According to their website Anna and Sonya Kupriienko are Next Model Management’s latest recruits, having posed for a recent spread in Italian Vogue as well as a few other uber-hip fashionista mags. It’s certainly an intriguing performance; essentially the same mildly dark, repetitive electronic pop song played again and again, complete with flute playing, tambourine bashing and keyboard duelling, the twins know how to hold their own with the crowd, most of whom lap it up, engaging in plenty of chirpy stage banter in between songs. It’s difficult to tell whether the whole thing is a tightly constructed paparazzi plot to win over the hipsters and ‘It’ crowd, although the girls are musically accomplished enough to suggest a future in music is feasible. Art pranksters, industry ‘in’ joke, genuinely fucked up 21st century fashion/feminista amalgamation, or simply two young girls who enjoy playing music together? God knows, although I’m fairly certain we’ll be seeing more of the twins in some shape or form over the coming years…..
Dressed in identikit adidas firebird tracksuits, sporting matching Ray Bans, beards and haircuts, the Eels’ entrance is a rather confusing affair. Everett is stood to the right of the stage, it is only when the first verse of ‘Cancer For The Cure’ is nearing an end when I realise who it is singing the damn thing! The aforementioned track, taken from 1998’s sublime ‘Electro-Shock Blues’ album (possibly their masterpiece), sounds fiercer than ever before; the absence of a keyboard or piano informs you that tonight’s show will mostly be concerned with rockin’ out. Everett is in remarkably good spirits; roaring his approval at the crowd’s enthusiasm, giving the band members big hugs between songs, bellowing Beatles lyrics in ackowledgement of the city he is playing in (there is a hilarious moment when drummer Knuckles peforms a segment of ‘Let It be’ with the accompaniment of the band). The tracks taken from the new album, ‘Wonderful, Glorious’ all sound triumphant tonight, highlights including the laconic drawl of single ‘Kinda Fuzzy’, an intense ‘The Turnaround’, a fast paced ‘Peach Blossom’ and the more relaxed meditations of ‘Fresh Feeling’. Although perhaps not as ‘instant’ as some of their earlier works, the versions of the tracks played tonight are more than enough to convince you to give it another whirl, it certainly sounds better blasting out of the speakers right now.
What else, you ask? Cripes, good question! How about a fist punchingly jubilant ‘Prizefighter’ from 2007’s excellent ‘Hombre Lobo’ album, a tear jerking ‘That Look You Give That Guy’ from the same record (surely one of the most devastating break up songs ever committed to plastic), a rip roaring run through of the slacker anthem ‘Saturday Morning’ from ‘Shootenanny!’, and a sublimely understated take on Hombre Lobo’s ‘In My Dreams’. There comes a time in the set when ‘E’ (whose one lettered nickname is chanted frequently throughout) informs the crowd that the band have been told to “leave the stage”, the woman responsible for the decision is asked to if she is going to tell us that and arrives to a chorus of resounding boos and hisses! Little matter; as a compromise we get treated to a head bangingly intense ‘Souljacker Part 1’ (from the underrated ‘Souljacker’), a medley of ‘My Beloved Monster’ and the ace single ‘Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues’ and, as an encore, a deliciously paranoid ‘Fresh Blood’; Hombre Lobo’s depraved vampiric sludge-blues dirge which was, unbelievably, released as a single. Suffice to say I have waited a long time to see this band, thankfully not only did they not disappoint, they blew me away! Thanks for all the music so far, E, I look forward to seeing where your never-ending jouney through the barren desert highways of musical past and present takes you (and the listener) next. For now, adios!
All words by X. More work by X can be found in their Louder Than War archive.
All words by Sean Diamond. More work by Sean Diamond can be found in his Louder Than War archive.