Histrionics, a blistering set and Krazy Al?

Eels at the Showbox – 6/4/06
Photo courtesy of mistylwhite

Showbox, June 4, 2006

On Sunday night, Eels returned to Seattle to follow up their previous “With Strings” tour with a blistering set at the Showbox that was the perfect antithesis to their performance at the Moore Theater last year. This time calling the tour “No Strings Attached,” band leader and brain of Eels Mark Oliver Everett, otherwise know as E, blazed through the most rocking songs of the Eels’ catalogue, alongside The Chet, Knuckles, and Krazy Al (or guitarist Chet Lyster, drummer Derek Brown, and bassist Alan Hunter respectively). The cartoonish names are but a small part of the gimmick that drove the band’s performance, though. Whereas during the “With Strings” tour E, The Chet, and even Krazy Al (then Big Al) wore suits and ties, looking nearly professorial, or at least professional, on this tour the band members looked considerably more blue collar, sporting dark jumpsuits (E and The Chet), a black “Security” t-shirt (Krazy Al), or an emblem-less military uniform and a Civil War styled hat (Knuckles). Despite these seemingly disparate costumes, dark sunglasses and profuse facial hair united the band visually.

Eels-June 4-Showbox-mistylwhite.jpg
Eels at the Showbox – 6/4/06
Photo courtesy of mistylwhite

Beside each other, with all of the whiskers, E, The Chet and Knuckles may as well have been brothers. Krazy Al stood apart, quite literally, from the band with his cleanly shaved head and pretended to be an actual security guard, arms crossed, scanning and scowling at the crowd rather than playing any actual instruments. He truly earned his moniker by practicing karate moves, lifting weights and spouting aphoristic non-sequiturs like “I know what the deal looks like! And this is the deal!” On a very few occasions did he actually contribute to the band’s musical output. But his sonic absence was hardly missed as E, The Chet and Knuckles roared through their set, which included a few classic Eels songs, such as “My Beloved Monster” and “The Sound of Fear,” some mid-career howlers like “Dog Faced Boy” and “Souljacker, Part 1,” and a selection of the newest material Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, among which the opener “Old Shit/New Shit” set the stage for the entire concert.

Throughout the night, Eels blasted through a series of covers: Tom Waits’ “Jesus Gonna Be Here” (sung by The Chet), the Peaches/Iggy Pop collaboration “Rock Show” (in case you weren’t paying attention), Willie Dixon’s “Crazy Love” (which was Krazy Al’s theme), Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” (sounding nothing like ol’ Blue Eyes) and a very Screamin’ “I Put A Spell On You.” As always, the band “performs,” not just musically but as personalities. E is, as always, aloof, rarely speaking to the crowd, but communicating instead through Krazy Al, who loyally does his bidding, as when E points to various members of the crowd and Krazy Al approaches them menacingly but then reaches out his hand to high-five and knuckle bump appreciative fans, or later when he sprays whipped cream into eager mouths, including E’s.

To many observers, the “E” might as well stand for enfant terrible, but it’s not difficult to see that his seemingly temperamental actions, such as when he leaves the stage midway through “Not Ready Yet,” are part of the act. And when Krazy Al snaps on rubber gloves and then hauls off a heckler from the crowd, it’s likely that the perpetrator was a plant. There are enough cracks within the stage theatrics to reveal that E stands before the crowd night after night for the joy of performance. If skeptics can’t see through the tough-guy façade of the main set, surely the encore, during which pre-teen boppers Asya and Chloe of the local band Smoosh dance around the stage to “Cancer for the Cure” and “I Like Birds,” will convince them. And if they are lucky enough to stick around for Eels’ signature “secret encore,” which inevitably occurs after the lights are on and the majority of the crowd have dispersed, they’ll see an Eels stripped of jumpsuits and histrionics, and grinning through “Saturday Morning” for the diehard fans.

- Jim

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  1. birdboy
    Posted June 7, 2006 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Thanks for telling me about the secret encore! I will be attending the show in NY next Tuesday and will definitely stick around for that.

  2. Posted June 7, 2006 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I have seen the Eels on every tour since Souljacker, and this stood right up there with the show that they played at the Aladdin Theater here in Portland, when they played three encores or the With Strings tour, when I had to wait 2 hours in the rain because their bus broke down a few blocks from the venue. Every time I see them it’s a revelation. Rock music is supposed to be like this. Good quality musicianship and songwriting and a obvious joy in performing them and interactiing with fans. I won’t miss an Eels show any time in the near future for any reason. Always great.

  3. Tom
    Posted June 8, 2006 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Saw these guys in Boulder last night. Great show and same kind of schtick. This is the first time I’ve seen them live and they didn’t disappoint.

    Also Smoosh was very entertaining. There were a few naysayers in the crowd initially but by the end of their set, Smoosh had won them over.

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