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Sunday, July 31, 2011

An Evening in Williamsburg... w/ Eels

In a way I am a bit sad.  For various reasons friends either could not make it or were otherwise disinterested.  The fact is, last night in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, The Eels performed an amazing live show. The tragedy is I am still holding an unused ticket.  So sorry for your loss.

Mark Oliver Everett ("E") and his band of Eels were energetic, engaged and otherwise happy to be there.  This tour (called Tremendous Dynamite 2011) saw E bring a full band on stage.  Tiny Al on Bass and multi-instrumentalist "The Chet" were in their familiar places.  The real treat was having "The Snatch Brothers" horn section along for the ride.  Switching up between flutes, and trumpets, and saxophones, and any other brass instrument that comes to mind, the 2 man section brought added depth to an already DEEP performance.

23 songs or so and each one re-imagined, reworked and revved up.  There was a ska like feel to "Flyswatter."  "Prizefighter" had a blues based feel that pumped life into the building.  "My Beloved Monster" had some Tower of Power meets Huey Lewis sound.  The haunting and beautiful "I'm Going to Stop Pretending That I Didn't Break Your Heart" was a rare slow piece that had the audience wanting more.  "El Hombre Loco" and the 2nd encore "Fresh Blood" were macabre tales of the night that saw  "E" shrieking and howling away both on vocal and guitar.

He veered off and covered, brilliantly, the Sly and The Family Stone classic "Hot Fun in the Summer Time."  Indeed.  Each musician playing off one another with vocal giddiness.  This was a band clearly having big fun and the audience could not get enough.

And when he dusted off his first hit, "Novocaine for the Soul," it was clear "E" was intent on going out with a flourish.  I have seen him on every tour for 15 years or so and this is a song that rarely makes the playlist.  I was beyond glad it made it last night.

This was "E" in an optimistic mood.  This was "E" smiling and having an absolute ball on stage.  He shouted positive one word exclamations after the first few songs and I actually believed him.  "Beautiful."  "Great."  Amazing."

You bet it was.  And when the time came to wrap things up his optimism continued.  The final tracks (including encores) read like the chapters of a self help book.

"Beginners Luck"
"Losing Streak" which if you know it tells the story of how things are finally picking up...  "My losing streak is done."
"PS You Rock My World" A soft little ballad with the lyrics:

I was at a funeral the day i realized
I wanted to spend my life with you
Sitting down on the steps at the old post office
The flag was flying at half mast
And i was thinking 'bout how
Everyone is dying
And maybe it is time to live

Finally, he put down the guitar and played preacher.  With his fine, fine band roaring behind him he closed with "Looking Up."  And as the place lit up like a Baptist Church "E" wailed and looked to the heavens.  "Yeah It's Looking Up, I'm looking up... "  Gospel meets rock and roll.  Blues meets jazz.  Alt meets Country.  And all the spectrums of music in between.

Eels has never made the mainstream and, as "E" closes in on 50, they probably never will.   For the life of me I cannot figure out why.   And this isn't to say "E" is infallible.  I was not a big fan of the show he performed last year at Terminal 5.  It was not the right crowd, venue and "E" seemed rushed/disinterested.

There was a discussion last night about whether another band is out there, right now, that will be able to do what U2 is doing this summer.  Other than them and Bruce, and The Stones/Bon Jovi I think we are getting to a point where "Stadium" bands are becoming dinosaurs.

As arenas and smaller venues become more the norm I urge each and everyone of you to get out of your comfort zone once in a while.    Certainly add Music Hall of Williamsburg (  and  to your venues list too.  Bowery Ballroom presents redesigned this building a few years ago and with a capacity of 550 it is a real treat for someone like me.  There are ample bars and lounges both upstairs and in the basement (Guinness in cans too!!!)  Most importantly the sound is incredible.  

Williamsburg itself is a bit of a revelation.  Having spent little, if any (I think I drove through it once) I did not know what to expect.  We arrived around 7pm and found FREE street parking.  The neighborhoods are full of chic boutiques, larger commercial retailers, and plenty of bars and restaurants.  It is a lively and fun spot I am already itching to get back too.  We were fortunate enough to find Juliette ( for our pregame activities.  It caught my eye because I noticed a roof top bar.  What I did not realize was this was a first rate eatery as well.  Friends enjoyed octopus, beet salads and blt's.  I was most satisfied with a pulled pork sandwich and pommes frites.  Paris in Brooklyn with a twist.  They were pouring Juliette Lager from the tap.  No idea whether it was their own creation or that of another brewer, but it was a smooth and satisfying drink to say the least.   Service was not outstanding, but what would you expect from struggling artists and actors???

It is a rather exciting time for the Brooklyn music and art scene.  More bands are opting to play in the Borough and I am finding it most enjoyable crossing the East River to find them.  In less than two weeks I head back to Prospect Park to see Foster the People and Cut Copy.  Again, I am having trouble getting rid of a ticket.

Am I that big a tool or are folks just content listening to the same old bath soap the "Man" is stuffing down their collective throats?  

I wish I didn't care as much.  Or, I wish I cared about other things as much.  Either way I know, 12 hours removed from Eels, I am still very much on an adrenaline rush.  Don't think I am getting that with Maroon 5.


OK, I like Adam Levine and realize he is talented.  The Maroon 5 dig was probably too harsh.  I think it is the intimate club venues that provide such joy these days.  The emotional response and visceral experience from seeing someone in such a small setting CANNOT be discounted.

Also, I have to admit that my years of driving limousines in and around NYC have paid off in my later years.  I am told folks are scared to drive in and around the City.  I love it.  Not embarrassed to admit some of the highlights of last night included the 45 minute drive home from Brooklyn.  I did it in such great time I had time to hit my local for a nightcap and have a late night diner breakfast with wife and friend.  

We joked that I should buy a bus and do Suburban Man concert/reality tours.  Anyone interested??

1 comment:

  1. Nice review! I was at the same show, and also went the night before. Both concerts were an absolute blast. Check out my shots from the nights at: