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Eels closed their first set at Brooklyn Steel with the final track from 1998’s autobiographical Electro-Shock Blues, “P.S. You Rock My World”. There’s a lyric from that song which, in my mind, could serve as a thesis for everything Eels’ leader, Mark Oliver Everett, has ever done…”maybe it’s time to live”. It’s not as vapidly positive as “it’s time to live” or irritatingly motivational as “go out and live!”; it’s real and shows that there are options. “Yeah, things are shitty and you could end it all or…maybe it’s time to live.” There are no guarantees, but…maybe. That was the vibe throughout: hey, it could be better, but it could be worse…maybe it’s time to live.
As always, Eels served up equal parts well-crafted (if sometimes simplistic) rock and subtle reflection*. From Souljacker’s “Dog Faced Boy” to Shootenanny’s “Dirty Girl”, and Hombre Lobo’s “Prizefighter” to Electro-Shock Blues’ “Climbing Up to the Moon”. The chameleon songs returned in brand new wrapping, including what I keep thinking of as a Tool cover of “Novocain for the Soul". And speaking of covers, as usual the show had a handful, most notably two Prince covers, “Raspberry Beret" which was fun, and "When You Were Mine”, which was stripped down and sorrowfully bluesy, absolutely beautiful. These days, it seems everyone is covering Prince, but as E has been covering him since the early 90’s, it somehow seems to mean more.
Although the arrangement was tight, the new album (The Deconstruction) wasn’t meant to be recreated with two guitars, a bass and a drum kit, and most of the more intricate tracks from that album were left off the evening’s set list in favor of the more rock-like songs such as “Today Is The Day”, “Bone Dry” and “You Are The Shining Light”. Standouts included “I Like Birds", the arena rock version of “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues", “From Which I Came/A Magic World”, "Fresh Blood", “Daises of the Galaxy", “Flyswatter", "Bone Dry", "P.S. You Rock My World", and the mini-medley closer of Brian Wilson’s "Love and Mercy", "Blinking Lights (For Me)”, and “Wonderful, Glorious”.
Eels have just wrapped up their North American leg and are now off to Europe and the UK. If you’re hoping for a string quartet, horn section, or even a piano, you’re out of luck, but you should still see them, you should always see them, because they are Eels.
*Also an original song introducing the world to their latest drummer Little Joe entitled ”Little Joe!”.