Eels at First Avenue, 2/22/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo By Erik Hess

With Nicole Atkins
First Avenue, Minneapolis
February 22, 2013

Eels were clearly in a playful and feisty Friday night mood at First Avenue, a point proven by the matching blue Adidas tracksuits and sunglasses that frontman Mark Oliver Everett and the rest of the group sported onstage, the many hugs shared between band members throughout the show, as well as the spirited material on offer throughout the performance which was augmented by E's jocular between song banter.

It all amounted to a riveting and revealing 105-minute set that kept the surprises coming straight until the end, drawing liberally from throughout Eels distinct back catalog while focusing on their just-released new album, Wonderful, Glorious.

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The set began with a prerecorded announcement, as a female voice introduced them, "And here they are, ladies and gentlemen. Hold onto your hat." Drummer Knuckles then settled in behind his kit, situated prominently on a riser at the front of the stage, as he laid down a beat while the rest of the group joined him. Guitarists The Chet and P-Boo flanked bassist Koool G Murder on a riser towards the back, while E himself ascended what he humorously referred to as the "lead singer riser," leading the group through a raucous take on "Bombs Away" which opened the show strongly, with E comically 'playing' a rain stick during the brief quiet moments of the song.

A rollicking, Beatles-esque take on "Kinda Fuzzy" quickly followed, with E exclaiming, "Aw yeah! That felt good. Success!" before demanding a hug from Koool G for his terrific bass playing on the track. A lively "Open My Present" kept the energy level high, but it was a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" which really lit the night's fuse, as both the Chet and P-Boo energetically shredded away on the crunchy riffs of the familiar classic rock staple. Again, E was pleased with his band, and wanted an immediate hug from the Chet, a sense of unity that would continue throughout the performance.

A vibrant run through of "Tremendous Dynamite" continued the dynamic start, before E slowed things down with a bluesy take on "Accident Prone" as the show downshifted for a lengthy subdued section. A poignant version of "On the Ropes" was a clear highlight of the somber, vulnerable portion of the show, with E calling out the fine work of his other guitarist afterward. "Very tasteful picking, P-Boo. Come over here and give me a hug." That affection and generous feeling of camaraderie permeated each and every song the band played, and easily transferred to the audience as well, as we all got swept up in the raw emotions on display throughout the exuberant performance.

Photos By Erik Hess

After an impassioned rendition of "Dirty Mouth," E joked, "Good one, me! Why doesn't anyone ever hug me?" He went on to ask the crowd, "Who likes flowers? Why don't we do a couple nice flower songs on a beautiful spring evening like this." Tender takes on "Flower" and "Peach Blossom" quickly followed, but the set was getting a bit sleepy at this point, and needed another spark. At the end of "Trouble With Dreams," E's edgy guitar work seemed to provide a jolt, one that the group only build upon as "The Turnaround" drew to a cacophonous close.

"Another Alphabet" had a welcome sinister churn to it as the set fully snapped to life, but it was the buoyant pop bounce of "Fresh Feeling" which proved to be a standout of the show. After a sparkling take on "The Sound of Fear," E genuinely proclaimed: "This is fun! I'm comfy! Now you know why we recorded both discs of our live album here in this room -- we love this place! That's not shameless pandering, it's just simple appreciation. It's good to see all of you, that's what I'm trying to say." That statement just furthered the deep connection the audience already had with E and his band, as the crowd was clearly identifying with his anguished anthems of being heartbroken, lonely, or down-and-out.

E then humorously stopped the show, taking a moment to "formally introduce the band that I've been hugging periodically tonight." When he got to introducing the Chet, the crowd was chanting for him emphatically, something that wasn't lost on E. "Lots of dudes calling out for the Chet tonight," and when one particularly boisterous fan wouldn't let up, E teased him, "Dude, shut up. We get it. You love the Chet. Hang around the bus later and see what happens." But E got a bit serious for a moment, touching on his long history with his guitarist. "The Chet and I have been rocking around the world for ten long years now. Let's make it official tonight -- let's renew our vows." And, as the Chet joined E on the 'lead-singer riser,' the pair renewed their creative vows to each other, a partnership that hopefully continues another 10 years.

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