Monday, December 7, 2009

Live Review: EELS

Thursday, May 01, 2008 
The Palais

"I know why you're all here," deadpans E. "Because I'm the son of a genius physicist. Well I'm proud to be the Julian Lennon of physics." Indeed the whole night and for a large part of his back catalogue (which gets an uneven going-over tonight), E is singing about himself. So it's fortunate that he is such an engaging character and one prone to self-deprecation regardless of his heavy history. To drive the point home, a booming bodiless voice states 'Mark Oscar Everett, this is your life," at the beginning of his set. The voice recurs throughout the night as often as he reminds us how great it is to be him, how he has the mic and does the talking not the drunken punter up the back, and the interesting story of how he came to be the way he is.

Eschewing a support band for a screening of the BBC documentary Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives that sees E researching his late father's life, there seems few sad secrets E will keep. Hugh Everett, it turns out, was a renown yet, until recently, overlooked quantum physicist who developed the 'multiple universes' theory. Telling his story sees E wandering Princeton University talking with his father's colleagues, exploring his basement for old tapes and boxes of files belonging to his father, and visiting the Pentagon to trace the military work his father did after his theory - submitted aged 24 - fell on deaf ears. The documentary is fascinating and its emotional ramifications and ruminations could be seen to make up a lot of the ensuing set which sees 1998's cathartic Electro Shock Blues album heavily mined.

Unceremoniously striding to a stool by a mic, E takes a baby blue Danelectro and opens with Grace Kelly Blues. It seems after a piano-led It's A Motherfucker this will be a stripped back show, and once 'the band' are introduced - all one member of them - for a still-rousing Strawberry Blonde, this isn't going to stop the show from being more than satisfying, largely thanks to 'The Chet' aka multi-instrumentalist Chet Atkins III. The Chet proves himself master of bowed saw, slide guitar, guitar, drums, harmonium and xylophone, all while having a great pair of lungs. Indeed his skills are mocked by E during a mid-concert break when E reads us live reviews of some of his British shows which highlight The Chet's prowess at expense of E.

Other set highlights include a glorious My Beloved Monster, a moving In The Yard, Behind The Church, E reading his fanmail, and a foot-stomp-good I Like Birds. Twice The Chet reads from E's book which illustrates well the diverse nature of his ponderings and their enhancement by song. The section during Flyswatter when E and the Chet seamlessly swap instruments mid-song is pure gold, as are the two encores and hundreds of in-the-know fans who clamour by the stage hoping for one more moment to connect with one of the funniest and most selflessly selfish stars in the firmament.

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