Eels frontman Mark Oliver Everett (better known as “E”) doesn’t like to give too much away about his tours in advance. When I spoke with E last month, I asked him what we could expect from this upcoming tour, his first in three years. All he would surrender was, “I hope there’s some rock in the house.” Armed with only that hint, I showed up at the 9:30 Club on Sunday night eager to see what E had in store for his unsuspecting audience. Following sets by foulmouthed “rock ‘n’ roll ventriloquist” Carla Rhodes and self-described “precocious” singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop, E took the stage solo with a guitar in hand and launched into a stripped-down reading of “Daisies of the Galaxy”. Soon enough, however, he was joined onstage by his four-piece band, all of whom sported beards, suits and sunglasses. Leaning heavily on the more rock-oriented numbers in the Eels catalog and piling on the blues riffs, the band at times looked and sounded like a ZZ Top send-up. Still, highlights abounded: rearranged versions of “My Beloved Monster” and “Spectacular Girl”, an especially aggressive take on “Souljacker Pt. 1”, the lyrics from “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues” set to the music of “Twist and Shout”. All of this was delivered with a wink and a nod, of course, from a man who, despite his hermetic reputation, has proven over the years to be a consummate showman. Looks like he got his wish, eh?
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