The American alt rock band Eels played the best and most impactful set we’ve ever seen them deliver at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco June 10, 2014. Mark Oliver Everett, referred to as “E”, the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist led the band through many tracks from his latest, The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett, along with a choice selection of his work back to 1995. The new album by the way is a revelation – it’s an intimate portrait of personal growth involving someone E says he lost by choice and later came to regret. With titles like “Where I’m At,” “Where I’m From,” “Where I’m Going” and “Mistakes of My Youth” – the latter being one of E’s best compositions over these many years, it’s clear this a very personal work. Live is was stunningly beautiful.
From the end of the first song, it was clear E was in a great mood and would be conversing and connecting with the audience. He apologized for much of his music being sad – warning us before songs if they would be of the form he calls “soft bummer pop.” In another jest, he referred to his band a “fine artists” in consideration of the venue, and at one point extolled the audience to perk up as it was getting a bit too “PBS” in there.
Since so much of E’s music does tend toward dark and painful subjects, his work in large quantities can threaten to depress. However on this night, the crack band of musicians aided the man, teetering perfectly between the melancholy and happy, quirky sides of his catalog, peppering the sadder tracks with others such as “Lockdown Hurricane,” “I Like Birds,” and “A Daisy Through Concrete” from his stellar album Daisies of the Galaxy, “Fresh Feeling” from Souljacker, and “I Like the Way This is Going” from the new album. Notably, E sang several covers, including lovely renditions of “When You Wish Upon A Star,” (okay small tears were shed) “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis and “Turn on Your Radio” by the similarly underrated and wonderful Nilsson.
True to the spirit of this very warm evening show, E came down to hug everyone in the first row at the end of the set. Having seen him play over the years it was an absolutely heartwarming and special night of his unique brand of live therapy – here’s hoping for encores into the years.
The set list was:
Where I’m At
When You Wish Upon a Star (yes, really – achingly beautiful with his gravelly voiced delivery)
Mansions of Los Feliz
My Timing is Off
Where I’m From
It’s a Motherfucker (one of the best, most true renditions I’ve heard)
A Daisy Through Concrete (check this – such an awesome song)
Grace Kelly Blues
I Like Birds (electric version of this fantastic track)
My Beloved Monster
Where I’m Going
Mistakes of My Youth (favorite from the new album – truly confessional, hopeful, and triumphant)
I Like the Way This is Going
Last Stop: This Town
Can’t Help Falling in Love (Elvis)
Turn On Your Radio (Nilsson)