Live Review: EELS at Showbox at the Market 8/9

photos by Jim Bennett

Any EELS show is a cause for celebration, but now that the “lost love” trilogy is done — Hombre Lobo, End Times, and Tomorrow Morning were each released about 6 months apart and focus on themes related to the rise and fall of a relationship — the band is ready to move on, or move back, so it would seem. For the “Tremendous Dynamite” tour, Mark Oliver Everett, a.k.a. E, has assembled one of the largest EELS touring groups to plumb the band’s back catalog and delight fans without focusing on any particular album. This past Tuesday, at Seattle’s Showbox at the Market, EELS definitely pulled out all the hits — like “My Beloved Monster,” “Grace Kelly Blues,” “Flyswatter,” “Novocaine for the Soul,” “Love of the Loveless” and an amped up version of “I Like Birds” — and they did it in style. This time no white jumpsuit and bandana for E… no, he and the boys were suited up and looking their sharpest since 2006’s “Eels with Strings” tour.

Among the spiffed up performing members, that unsurprisingly included regular tourmates The Chet on guitar and Knuckles behind the kit, were the relatively more recent additions of P-Boo on guitar and “Tiny” Al on bass (as opposed to “Big” and “Crazy” Als from previous tours). Most notably different about this touring incarnation, though, was the addition of horns. Backing nearly every song, the Supernatural “Snatch” Brothers played flute, sax, trumpet, trombone, flugelhorn, and other instruments to add a more celebratory vibe. On only the couple of songs they didn’t play, like Tomorrow Morning‘s “I Like the Way This Is Going,” the brothers turned their backs to the audience as if not to distract or unnecessarily dazzle.

E himself was ever the showman, throwing approving looks to the audience and making comical statements like “Clap if you hear the boys play something you like.” In typical EELS fashion, each member got his props, and Knuckles even got his own song, to showcase their talent. And as if to further emphasizing the feel-good vibe of this tour, the band mixed in two covers — “Somebody’s Watching You” and “Hot Fun in the Summertime” — both by Sly & the Family Stone into the fan-friendly setlist.

Perhaps the whole point of the tour was to wipe the slate clean after the particularly emotional roller coaster of the recent trilogy. It’s hard to call E indulgent, since all he’s ever done is write self-reflective songs in one way or another, but these last few albums seemed particularly personal. Whatever the reason, though, the festivities of the Tremendous Dynamite tour turned away from all of that and reminded fans just how much fun EELS can be.

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