Eels

support Jesca Hoop
author TL date 10/06/11 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Flashback to last Friday. It's the tenth of June, and my lovely girlfriend and I have just rendevouzed with trusty photographer Lykke at Store Vega. We're seeing Eels tonight, a band that despite their extensive discography, I got to know for the first time less than two months ago, when my girlfriend found "Shootenanny!" in her pile of records and said that, if I like Pavement so much (I like Pavement quite a lot) then maybe this would be something for me. I listened briefly, but Eels were pushed to the back of my priorities until I recently saw something as old-fashioned as a poster for the show. From that discovery and to seizing the opportunity there was for me only a short length, and so, here I with two wonderful women in my company, ready to take on one of those rare shows which can boast a full crowd of people with an average age actually above mine and Lykke's.

Jesca Hoop

As we make it upstairs to the actual venue, it turns out the support is already playing, which puzzles me, because the time is barely 20:30, and I could have sworn Vega's website said the doors weren't even going to open before 20:00. Whether I'm wrong or right, I certainly am late, because we only manage to catch the very last song performed by Californian singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop. It's only her on stage with an acoustic guitar, and a voice that has a folksy ring to it. I guess only seeing a song of it hardly qualifies me for writing a review, least of all with any sort of grade at the end. That being said though, I might as well mention that my impression of this song is that the guitar playing is a bit on the subtle side, while the singing is as constant as it gets with Hoop only pausing her song to breathe. It quickly loses a bit of novelty upon realizing that the voice/instrument relationship is so set. Hence one hopes that the songs Hoop played earlier were more dynamic, or that they at least are if I ever get to see a full Jesca Hoop set, otherwise I'm afraid I would, hypothetically of course, be reaching for a grade around the average.

?

Eels

Now, looking into the future and claiming the knowledge of a man who has already seen this show and is maybe, possibly, potentially writing a review about it, I know in advance that the show I am about to see is best described in two halves. The first forty some minutes and the last forty some minutes. As for the first forty-some minutes, they start when Eels take the stage seven man strong, all clad from head to toe in gentlemen's vests and/or suits, wearing sunglasses one and all, and mostly looking like they've started a "who can grow the biggest tour beard" contest. It's fairly novel, at least for a moment, but the band's appearance quickly wanes from being the centre of attention, as the audience suddenly has to get busy listening to songs. Because for these first forty some minutes, songs suddenly get delivered off the stage in an assembly-line fashion. And although good songs such as "Flyswatter" get aired during this time, with Eels playing every bit as tight as a band of their long career should, the best thing I can really say about it is, that it is pretty much like listening to the song on album. Because nothing extra is going on to make this seem like an actual show. The band members hardly move on stage, other than to have a drink or to exchange instruments, and there's no between song banter, nor any real audience response to speak of. Heads bop casually and applauses are given politely, as the first 7-8 songs follow each other like pearls on a string, like them being played isn't really a very big deal. Hell, even the lighting is as dull as what you'd expect at the local prom.

So when some guy decides to share his idiocy with the world by shouting "Booooooooring!" after a song, my feelings aren't the normal ones of thinking about how to get such lack of tact penalized with public hanging. I'm rather thinking, "I hate to admit it, but this dude is right."

Whether or not this affects Eels is hard to say. At least they don't respond to the man in any way. However, they immediately pick up the pace, and for almost the entire remainder of the regular set, the tempo is upped and Eels start to rock out more freely. Main-man Mark Everett also loosens up noticeably, cracking bitter jokes to the crowd between songs, about how he lost his favourite guitars while the band was in China. Even crowd-favourite "I Like Birds" is sped up considerably - though whether that is for better or worse is debatable. Either way, the show is suddenly of an entirely different character, with both band and audience enjoying themselves considerably more. Even the lighting is suddenly more dynamic. It's like one show ended and an entirely new one began. From the realm of the grade 6, we've suddenly come to shores of 7½, even bordering on 8. Okay, maybe not a monumental improvement, but nonetheless a considerable one. During these last forty some minutes, songs like the Sly & the Family Stone cover "Hot Fun In The Summertime" and Eels' own "Love of the Loveless" get fine renditions, and I am beginning to think that hey, this does look like a 16 year old band on the top of its game. That is, that is what I would be thinking, if it weren't for a final couple of bitter observations. Firstly, attention all bands: Do not plan two encores. Unless you're Iron Maiden, one encore is enough for you. This is non-negotiable. Secondly, is it just me or does the airing of "Novocaine For The Soul" seem a little like an "oh let's get the song everyone wants to hear over with"-kind of rendition?

All things considered, I would probably settle for a grade of 7½ for Eels tonight, if it wasn't for the fact that the entire first half of the show seemed so stiff and cold. I know Eels have a looooot of songs, many of which an audience would want to hear live, but honestly, I think that if they can't play for full steam for more than 45-50 minutes, their show would be better if they left some songs out and played only that. Thinking about both the "booooooooring" half of the show as well as the cool one, I think we really only land on about:

More pictures from the show can be seen at Lykke Nielsen Photography

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