I was lucky enough to see Eels, the creative outlet of Mark Oliver Everett aka E, live at the beautiful Corn Exchange this week. They’ve been touring their newest album ‘The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett’ and brought their unique brand of ‘bummer rock’ as E so put it to Cambridge.
Right from the off, the gig was packed full of surprises, opening with a rendition of ‘When You Wish Upon a Star,’ and diving straight into some of the new material. Frontman E was charismatic and witty throughout, chatting to the audience between songs, complaining, most memorably, that he had been unable to trade his corn for wheat despite the venue being billed as The Corn Exchange.
The band comprised of various quirky instruments, slide guitar, tubular bells, timpani, upright bass and trumpet, creating a gorgeous texture, reminiscent of Tom Waits. The stage setup resembled, as E himself said ‘a garage sale,’ which only added to the charm.
Newer songs such as ‘Lockdown Hurricane’ and ‘Mistakes of My Youth’ were warmly received and beautifully executed, but it was when E delved into his back catalogue of classic albums such as ‘Beautiful Freak’ and ‘Daises of The Galaxy’ that the audience really erupted. Refreshingly though, Eels didn’t just whack out the studio versions, they weaved new arrangements together, breathing new life into the tracks in new and unexpected ways. Fan favourite ‘Last Stop: This Town’ was a swirling swooning ballad, whereas the typically playful ‘I like Birds’ was thumped out doubly fast in a punk –meets rockabilly manner.
It was a stunning gig with unmatched magnetism, superb lighting and some of the best live vocals I’ve heard in a very long time. It was a gig that would’ve been a joy to both die-hard fans and newcomers. Eels have moved on for the rest of their tour now, but hopefully they’ll be back soon, and let me tell you, I’ll certainly be fighting my way to the front row.