An Evening With the Eels Will Put Your Life in Perspective
This article was originally published on Respect My Region
The Eels make nursery rhymes for all age groups, but especially adults. Through years of inexperience and into a craftier state of humility, the California-based outfit has been exploring the familiar and hushed quirks of the human condition since the mid-90s. Today, they’re stronger than ever and enlivened by time.
Head honcho and unshaven mascot Mark Oliver Everett, who oversees the creative side of the operation, is privy to our innate need for reassurance. Using clever and playful words of affirmation, he fluently communicates his love language via music that doubles as a warm and fuzzy hug.
After multiple years of delay, he's finally back on the road to bring fellow weirdos 25+ years' worth of songs.
After concluding the European leg of the Lockdown Hurricane tour, the Eels kickstarted its American chapter in California this past week. On Saturday (June 10), the tuxedo-clad touring group put on a comprehensive performance of nearly thirty songs by the time they wrapped up their second encore in Los Angeles. The setlist comprised classics as well as recent releases, uppers as well as downers, but through it all, the four-piece remained focused on uplifting the audience's mood.
It's easy to mistake the Eels’ music for being mopey and completely soaked in self-pity. Though there is an unmistakable sadness to a lot of it considering the songwriter behind it all has suffered a great deal of loss in his lifetime, the music still carries with it a fairytale-like optimism.
By the age of 35, Everett aka E was the only surviving member of his family; father, mother and sister — heart failure, lung cancer and suicide. Yet, he found a way to turn these tragedies into whimsical little songs, and it protects him and his fans to this day.
As his hair whitens and beard thickens, E has eased into his role as the grumpy-looking uncle who is in fact a real softie deep down.
“I like getting older,” he wrote in his memoir, Things the Grandchildren Should Know. “It's taken me this long to start to feel a little comfortable being me. Sure was a long way around to getting there, but it's what I had to do. Was either that or die, so it feels like a triumph.”
As soon as Everett walked on stage bare feet, wearing a pink jacket, bowtie and trousers, a sense of comfort engulfed the Fonda Theatre. Mindful as always, he opened with a few new songs while he still had the crowd’s undivided attention and slowly inched toward the back end of his catalog. Before and after the “charade of walking off stage” twice, the band performed songs from the Eels’ 1996 debut album all the way to their most recent release from last year.
There's a science to arranging setlists in a way that offers something new while also catering to nostalgia. Everett & Co. seem to have this down, and that alone deserves a round of applause because most bands that've been around for as long are unable to strike that balance.
Therapeutic and Hopeful, an Eels Show Will Set You Straight
The Eels are a reminder to be gentle with yourself, and watching them live reinforces why it’s so great to be alive. Misfortunes will continue to occur, but there exists a space where we can turn them into something beautiful and nourishing.
Everett wrote the following in his 2007 book: “Thanks to my ridiculous, sometimes tragic, and always unsteady upbringing, I was given the gift of bone-crushing insecurity. One thing you’ll notice about people with mental problems is constant self-absorption. I think that’s because it’s such a struggle just to be who they are, so they have a hard time getting past it.”
At 60, he has the clarity of an introvert who spent most of his life expressing his grief in the public eye. Though it may seem like he’s always made it about himself, his outlook is applicable to humanity as a whole, which not only makes him trustworthy as a songwriter and lyricist but also as a guiding light.