Saturday night’s sold out Eels show at World Cafe Live had plenty of oddball moments, from the sad clown singing tragic songs, to Mark Oliver Everett and the rest of his track-suited gang schticking it up for a solid hour and a half set.
The night started with a clown named Puddles meandering through the crowd with a old suitcase and lit lantern. He seemed to be looking for someone but never found them. He suddenly climbed on the stage from the crowd, placed his suitcase down and just stood at the microphone looking nervous. Then the house music stopped, the lights went down and Puddles Pity Party’s performance began. His voice was a strong while he sang sad tunes to minimal recordings about losing his past loves and being alone. Suddenly a guy in a dress wearing a monkey mask came out and sat at the front of the stage, eating bananas and making lewd gestures with them while throwing the peels into the crowd. Puddles never acknowledged the monkey-person though. All puddles did beside sing was dry his eyes with tissues during “Lonely Guy,” before leaving the stage the same way he came. He even did a crushing rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” Really, it was hard to not feel sorry for the him – the performance felt real. Puddles Pity Party wasn’t gimmicky, it was truly moving.
New Jersey’s Nicole Atkins played next, but without her band. Her soulful, solo-guitar set was outstanding and seemed to make the crowd melt a little more with every song. “Cry Cry Cry,” from 2011’s Mondo Amore was a stand-out. She shared the new and unreleased “Red Ropes,” and wore her heart on shoulder as she sang surprisingly heartbroken songs.
Before Eels took the stage, the crowd was abuzz, knowing they were about to get a couple laughs and see one of the most tongue-in-cheek rock shows around. As the band walked out, they were greeted immediately by people yelling “The Chet!” – the guitarist in the band, and a fan favorite. They started their set just as their latest record, Wonderful, Glorious does, with “Bombs Away.” Then lead singer Everett, or E, hugged a band member. Then they played the next song from that record, “Kinda Fuzzy,” and E hugged another band member. He’d repeat this for the first four songs; later all five joined in a group hug.
In typical Eels fashion, they matched – from haircut to running shoes and Adidas track suits – and got a warm introduction by their lead singer, but only to share their nicknames (“Peeboo,” guitarist; “Honest Al,” bassist; and “Knuckles,” on drums). At one point Everett shared the good news that he and The Chet had played together for ten years. To celebrate this, they renewed their vows and “Honest Al” pronounced them each other’s guitarist and lead singer. It was adorable.
Joking aside, the band’s versatility is practically unheralded. They plowed through the over-driven “Souljacker Part 1” at one moment and then mellow it with the sunny and soulful “Wonderful, Glorious.” This sudden change in feeling seemed to happen a couple times but those changes in feel never felt clunky. Everett and company kept their cult following on their toes by playing a somewhat trippier and slowed-down version of “Trouble with Dreams” that was even creepier than what’s heard on Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. It happened again when they combined “My Beloved Monster” and “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues” during their first encore, followed by E yelling, “It’s a mash-up. That was exhausting!” Yeah, they came out for a second encore. And a third one, after the house lights had gone up. Maybe when a band is all wearing the same Adidas track suit, beard, shades, sneakers and haircut, something happens naturally that just makes them smile more and capable of playing anything they want.
Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac cover)
In My Dreams
On the Ropes
Climbing to the Moon
Trouble with Dreams
The Sound of Fear
Wind Beneath My Wings (Bette Midler tease following “vows renewal”)
Itchycoo Park (Small Faces cover)
Souljacker Part 1
I’m Your Brave Little Soldier
My Beloved Monster/Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues
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