The Triumphant Return of the Eels 06.08.18

Lansdowne Street in Boston, Massachusetts is shut down and packed with people. There’s a Red Sox game directly opposite the House of Blues. I have to dodge endless sports fans taking selfies in front of Fenway to make my way to the venue. It’s been four long years since the Eels have toured and I couldn’t be more excited to finally photograph my all time favorite band. After 2014’s sit down, gentleman’s Eels tour, I’m ready for something that rocks.

Without a doubt, The Eels always bring along an interesting opening act. I’ve seen air guitarists, magicians and that god forsaken clown. Mike Silverman, performing under the name That 1 Guy, started off the night. Surrounded by the Magic Pipe, a creation of curving metal pipes, That 1 Guy is a combination of performance art and sample pads. Dressed in all black with two wool hats stacked on top of each other, That 1 Guy resembles a prospector from the Old West. Like Blue Man Group on crack, That 1 Guy hits, plucks and strums a bow string across the Magic Pipe, sometimes even bringing his metal bottomed boots into play. There are card tricks and sock puppets dispersed throughout his short set and the crowd was laughing throughout.

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Almost exactly at 9PM, the Rocky 1 theme song “Gonna Fly Now” blasts through the venue speakers. The Eels take the stage adding blasts from air horns. It’s the most prompt start to a rock show I’ve seen in a long time. Few bands are confident enough to open their set with back to back cover songs, but the Eels pull it off. First is The Who‘s “Out in the Street”, followed quickly by Prince‘s “Raspberry Beret”. E stands to the left of the stage on a riser surrounded by percussion instruments: maracas, a tambourine, castanets, cow bells. He doesn’t pick up a guitar until the sixth song of the set. This is the most stripped down version of the Eels I’ve seen to date, with The Chet on lead guitar and occasional percussion duties, Big Al on bass and newcomer Little Joe filling in for Knuckles on drums.

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The first thing I notice about the band is their playfulness. E is dancing up a storm. The Chet hops over onto the lead singer riser during “Raspberry Beret” and joins in a little choreographed routine. It’s fun and the guys are rocking. E’s voice sounds incredible; whether he’s rested it enough over the four year hiatus or he’s finally found a solution to his nagging vocal chord issues, I’m not sure, but it is strong throughout the night. There are a couple of moments during the set where the guitar mix seems to cut out, particularly when Chet is switching between bongos and guitar during “You Are the Shining Light” and with string sampling during “Rusty Pipes”. With the band introductions, the audience learns that Knuckles has had to sit this tour out due to an “embarrassing surgery”. Little Joe steps up on drumming duties and sings a song about himself while E asks the crowd to make the new guy feel welcome, reminding them that they were once the new guy somewhere, too.

What I enjoy most about the Eels live is how they reinvent their old songs. The stripped down version of “Dirty Girl” and the samba like rendition of “My Beloved Monster” were appreciated, but the stand out to me was “Novocaine for the Soul.” It’s not a song that makes it into the set list every year, thankfully I might add, but this year’s version is over the top. Imagine the ultimate 90’s version of a song you can, a mixture of Nirvana and Pearl Jam on steroids, injected into the band’s first single. It’s more 90’s than when the song was initially released.

There is a quick, one song encore consisting of a second Prince cover, “When You Were Mine.” Everett’s voice is downright soulful and full of longing and the Boston crowd was gloriously silent to fully appreciate it. They return to the stage after another short break for a second encore. E jokes that he doesn’t want to leave the stage after “Fresh Blood,” the song used for the HBO documentary series The Jinx, because he doesn’t want the audience to go out thinking about Robert Durst. He advises for everyone to show each other a little kindness and launches into a medley of “Love and Mercy/Blinking Lights/Wonderful, Glorious.” After such an enthusiastic rock show, it’s a nice way to ease into the night. The chords during the transition to “Wonderful, Glorious” are some of the most beautiful, Beatles-esque the Eels have ever recorded. The band has one more US show before they head off for the European leg of the tour. The mix of songs and energy of the band has made this my favorite Eels tour to date. Here’s hoping they add more dates and keep the party going.

Setlist:

  • Out in the Street
  • Raspberry Beret
  • Bone Dry
  • Flyswatter
  • Dog Faced Boy
  • From Which I Came/A Magic World
  • Dirty Girl
  • That Look You Give That Guy
  • Prizefighter
  • Rusty Pipes
  • Open My Present
  • You Are the Shining Light
  • My Beloved Monster
  • I’m Going to Stop Pretending That I Didn’t Break Your Heart
  • Climbing to the Moon
  • I Like the Way This Is Going
  • Little Joe!
  • Today is the Day
  • Novocaine for the Soul
  • Souljacker, Pt. 1
  • I Like Birds
  • P.S. You Rock my World

Encore 1:

  • When You Were Mine

Encore 2:

  • Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues
  • Fresh Blood
  • Love and Mercy/Blinking Lights (For Me)/Wonderful, Glorious Medley

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