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the Eels at the El Rey theater on Friday, August 12, 2011

Mark Oliver Everett and his band had more incarnations than Madonna or Lady Gaga, and for his 2011 world tour, they had adopted a sort of Rhythm-&-Blues-review-via-the-ZZ-Top-look, with matching beards and sunglasses that was fitting so well with the speedy delivery of the show. Usually, you hardly have time to breathe during an Eels concert, and this time it was not called the ‘Tremendous Dynamite tour’ for nothing, the show was so fast-paced you hardly had time to absorb the songs they were playing! All of them (at a few exceptions) had been reworked with this R&B outfit, and in particular a grandiose horn section, which dynamized even more the two-hour long show.

‘It’s a beautiful place to be,… I’m home’ said Mark Everett toward the end of the show,… after having rushed from song to song, he only became chatty when they had played at least 15 of them. The show at the El Rey in Los Angeles on Friday night was indeed the last one of the large tour that had started in June and had made them travel through China, Europe, US and Canada.

With seven persons on stage, everything looked grand and stylish, the beards and the suits of course, but the whole thing looked upscale with the saxophone, the trumpets and other horns which added so much class to their macho-but-do-not-take-themselves-seriously attitude.

The beginning of the show was heavy on material from the beloved album ‘Daisies of the Galaxy’ and the crowd could not have responded with more enthusiasm to the opening tune, the eerie-playful 'Flyswatter', to the light and happy-melancholic ‘Grace Kelly Blues’ and its beautiful beginning with trumpets and sliding guitar, or to the tender  ‘Packing Blankets', but there was a little bit of everything during the show, Everett browsing his impressive body of work, with songs from ’Beautiful Freak’, ‘Blinking Lights and Other Revelations’, ‘Shootenanny’, ‘Souljacker’, even ‘Electro-Shock Blues’, a dark album he rarely plays (but he obviously had to do ‘Last Stop: This Town’), ‘Hombre Lobo’, and ‘Tomorrow Morning’; he did not touch ‘End Times’, probably because it would not have fitted the mood of the night, as he was saying these little upbeat sentences throughout the night: ‘You have a nice smile’, ‘Marvelous’, ‘This is fun’, ‘That was very positive, you feel good after that!’

That was my fourth time seeing the Eels live and I was not surprised to see that the crowd was an eclectic mix of young and much older people, all packed side by side in the theater; they were all looking happy… and a little surprised (in particular the two guys behind me) to see Judd Apatow appearing from backstage before the show had started.

The mood was going up and up song after song, and raucous bluesy-hard-rocking numbers like ‘Prizefighter’, ‘Tremendous Dynamite’, ‘Souljacker Part I, and ‘Fresh Blood’ were even more efficient with the horns played by the Snatch brothers as Mark Everett introduced them. He was howling like a wolf man, changing guitar for each song, giving to each of his songs a new old time R&B dimension with this long-beard-blues-man character, even when it was not something to expect like for example for ‘My Beloved Monster’.
‘Fresh Feeling’ had a killing guitar line, ‘I Like Birds’ was punk-ized and could not have lasted more than a minute, everything seemed to suit the new look, everything was beard-rocking, as was their cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s ‘Hot Fun in the Summertime’.

And there was the humor that the Eels are famous for during their live shows, the Snatch brothers turned their back to the audience, arms in the back when they were not needed for a song, Mark Everett was confused about the period of the year and the location, Los Alamos or Los Angeles,… you know, too much touring can do that to a guy, and he played a little trick to the crowd before the encore, successively and repeatedly encouraging them to applause, then giving them a this-is-too-much-gesture.
‘How dare you?’ he responded to the cheering of the crowd when reappearing for the first encore. The second encore ended the show with the soul-gospel-sounding ‘Looking Up’, summarizing the optimistic mood of the night. This is what can be so surprising with Mark Oliver Everett, with devastating lines like ‘Because mother says I was/A great mistake’ he manages to uplift the spirit of everyone, celebrating life in its painful but magic glory.

Setlist:

Flyswatter
That's Not Even Funny
Somebody's Watching Me (cover)
Grace Kelly Blues
Packing Blankets
Prizefighter
My Beloved Monster
Fresh Feeling
I'm Going to Stop Pretending That I Didn't Break Your Heart
Tremendous Dynamite
Love of the Loveless
I Like the Way This Is Going
This Is Where It Gets Good
That Look You Give That Guy
Hot Fun in the Summertime (cover)
Talkin 'Bout Knuckles (presentation of the band)
Novocaine for the Soul
Souljacker Part I
I Like Birds
Beginner's Luck
Losing Streak

Encore:
Last Stop: This Town
P.S. You Rock My World

Second Encore:
Fresh Blood
Looking Up

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