Last year in San Francisco 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. 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. Just last week, a new DVD was released of the Eels playing the Royal Albert Hall in London on a subsequent leg of this tour.
The film simply called Eels Royal Albert Hall, will be a revelation to any fan of this work, whether new or old. After a short prelude backstage, the camera captures the band entering stage left, and gives us a crystal clear document of the night, with multiple camera angles, tight close-ups of the band, and E. at all the right moments. It’s one of the better concert films of this kind.
The new album it featured on this night is amazing – 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 it was stunningly beautiful.
From the end of the first song, a gorgeous rendition of “When You Wish Upon A Star,” tells you where this one is going. You can see an audience member near front wiping away a tear. It was clear at our show and again at the RAH, that while there would be melancholy, 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 (or rock).” There are other jests based on the RAH as venue – best to see these on DVD to appreciate the moment.
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.
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. The encore: “Mistakes of My Youth” was truly confessional, hopeful, and heartwarming. A great show, worth owning on media – fill that prescription!