EELS – MANCHESTER ACADEMY, Sept 4th

In the 60’s (long before I existed here) a live music show was a performance. There were no backdrops or special effects – just artist, stage, audience and SONGS! Strong melody wasn’t a pleasant surprise when you heard it, but an essential part of song-writing repertoire or YOU didn’t exist!

I find myself all the time being left disappointed whilst waiting for that special, unique series of notes to fall out of the speakers. People long to hear that song that is just as powerful with one man on his guitar as it is when played with the full band. We hear EELS do just that as ‘E’ enters solo strumming timidly whilst producing a bed of morose yet uplifting vocal. And that’s all it needs!

Mark Oliver Everett takes to the stage looking reminiscent of Lennon in his white attire and bearded persona. These are songs and they tell a story. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. Everything thought out in so much detail it makes it near impossible to criticise creativity with such depth. He CARES about what it is he has to say and he certainly does have something to say. These are auto-biographical masterpieces told in such a way you want to reach out and comfort this man stood before you as his soul tells you it’s secrets. Anyone who has read Things the Grandchildren Should Know will have an understanding of how this all works.

The band gradually accumulated on stage, song by song, like guys meeting up at the pub ready to talk about a days fortunes/mishaps. So here we have the band, the songs and truly great musicianship and that’s all that is needed. The lighting was fitting throughout and was used as a tool to enhance the show not something that masked the performance.

The lapsteel pulled all the heartstrings as it supported some of the new material from E’s three part concept album that has trickled it’s way in to the veins of many Eels fans this past year. Tonight it was clear why Eels have such a huge cult following resulting in sold out venues worldwide – you don’t know what to expect!

This is what makes a performance special when you get the feeling it is different to each of the last thirty that came previously and you feel the artists connection with his audience. Yes ok, it may be the same setlist as you have done all tour for tech purposes but making the PERFORMANCE of each song spontaneous is what people love to hear. Turning some of the early lo-fi material in to upbeat blues rock numbers is a class act and it really worked. DON’T GIVE THE SAME PERFORMANCE OF A SONG, NEVER PLAY THE SAME SET TWICE AND LIVE MUSIC WILL NEVER GET STAGNANT. Surprise people and challenge their perceptions and you will succeed in creating a memorable and REAL performance.

Mr E’s Beautiful Blues’ satirically blessed chorus as he spat out “Goddamn right it’s a beautiful day” was the highlight for me and I still don’t know what the listener is meant to feel when listening to this song. Life just happened as the crowd all chanted “BIRDS” during ‘I Like Birds’. I couldn’t help but think that ‘E’ was just amusing himself when he wrote that song. Novocaine For The Soul was missing from a great set of songs but That Look You Give That Guy was a worthy replacement as he quickly moved from one song on to the next in military fashion. He only addressed the audience a couple of times to introduce the band and this night was clearly all about THE MUSIC.

The covers worked a treat as the band unexpectedly dropped on us Summer In The City and Summertime. An Eels twist was apparent on the surface of the covers in the form of a raw vocal, which held it’s own for the duration of the set. This was the first time I had seen Eels live and I never thought they would be a band to go for an encore. They surprised yet again as we then witnessed FOUR ENCORES! Yes four! These were all one song each but everyone raised the roof with applause louder each time. This was anything but merely going through the motions and made up out of many special moments that you take home with you until tomorrow morning.

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