Showbox, June 4, 2006
On Sunday night, Eels returned to Seattle to follow up their previous â€œWith Stringsâ€ 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 â€œNo Strings Attached,â€ band leader and brain of Eels Mark Oliver Everett, otherwise know as E, blazed through the most rocking songs of the Eelsâ€™ 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 bandâ€™s performance, though. Whereas during the â€œWith Stringsâ€ 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 â€œSecurityâ€ 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.
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 â€œI know what the deal looks like! And this is the deal!â€ On a very few occasions did he actually contribute to the bandâ€™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 â€œMy Beloved Monsterâ€ and â€œThe Sound of Fear,â€ some mid-career howlers like â€œDog Faced Boyâ€ and â€œSouljacker, Part 1,â€ and a selection of the newest material Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, among which the opener â€œOld Shit/New Shitâ€ set the stage for the entire concert.
Throughout the night, Eels blasted through a series of covers: Tom Waitsâ€™ â€œJesus Gonna Be Hereâ€ (sung by The Chet), the Peaches/Iggy Pop collaboration â€œRock Showâ€ (in case you werenâ€™t paying attention), Willie Dixonâ€™s â€œCrazy Loveâ€ (which was Krazy Alâ€™s theme), Frank Sinatraâ€™s â€œThatâ€™s Lifeâ€ (sounding nothing like olâ€™ Blue Eyes) and a very Screaminâ€™ â€œI Put A Spell On You.â€ As always, the band â€œperforms,â€ 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 Eâ€™s.
To many observers, the â€œEâ€ might as well stand for enfant terrible, but itâ€™s not difficult to see that his seemingly temperamental actions, such as when he leaves the stage midway through â€œNot Ready Yet,â€ are part of the act. And when Krazy Al snaps on rubber gloves and then hauls off a heckler from the crowd, itâ€™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 canâ€™t see through the tough-guy faÃ§ade 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 â€œCancer for the Cureâ€ and â€œI Like Birds,â€ will convince them. And if they are lucky enough to stick around for Eelsâ€™ signature â€œsecret encore,â€ which inevitably occurs after the lights are on and the majority of the crowd have dispersed, theyâ€™ll see an Eels stripped of jumpsuits and histrionics, and grinning through â€œSaturday Morningâ€ for the diehard fans.