Cold what what?!! Holy cow. Winter is suddenly everywhere – it’s in the car and under the doors and around the windows and under the skin.
Okay and why did the heat just stop. I have it set on 28 DEGREES. It is clearly not 28 DEGREES in here. God damn technology.
Thankfully, yesterday and the entire weekend wasn’t so cold. It was glorious weather in fact – all sunshine and warm breeze. Even through until later last night, when we hit the Enmore to see Eels, the air was decidedly warm.
There are many ways to make a true connection to a piece of music or to a musician or group of musicians, but I find it’s the ones who you feel are truly sharing a part of themselves that garner the most obsessive fans. It’s Ani DiFranco going outside to watch the house burn down or John Darnielle writing about his stepfathers strong and thick veined hands or Jeff Mangum unabashedly crying out his love for Jesus or Munaf Rayani from Explosions in the Sky throwing his hands and arms to the heavens.
Or, it turns out, it’s a night with Eels at the Enmore Theatre on a warm night in April.
Eels music has always held a special place in my heart. Susan’s House, when I first heard it on Triple J, completely rocked my world. Prior to that the whole spoken words over music thing was a little lost on me. Still is, mostly. But the lyrics were just so HONEST and painted a picture of time and place so vividly that I could place myself there. Partly because I felt like I was living a bit of a suburban nightmare myself. As a result of this I’ve had the album Beautiful Freak for many years now. It was released in, what, 1996?? That’s crazy. I’m pretty sure I didn’t own it until a ways later then that. But still, I’ve had it a good while. I have a good few Eels albums now. I think, probably owing to my generally optimistic personality, Daisies of the Galaxy is my favourite.
I saw them back in 2006. I had very, very high hopes for them/him then, given what I knew of the delicate, sweet and honest nature of the music on their albums. But it was a serious case of assuming nothing being the only safe thing at a gig, because that evening really, really sucked. It was less to do with the band and more to do with the crowd, but E turned all those beautifully sweet songs into thrusting noise and rock. And while I’m all up for the thrusting rock at times, and all the power to the man for seeing through his artistic vision and what not, but I just really, really wasn’t expecting it. So I was bitterly disappointed and went into last night with more then a hint of trepidation.
What we were presented with however was nothing less then a man’s life and heart on a plate. I still haven’t figured out how he managed to get through the night being simultaneously heartfelt, witty and self-depreciating. Because he did. It takes a rare amount of charisma and credibility to pull that sort of thing off. There was a showing of a film before the show (which we unfortunately missed a lot of) about his father. I honestly had no idea about his father being the famous physicist (as he stated he is truthfully, and hilariously, ‘the Julian Lennon of quantum physics’). And about the tragedy of his family. And the showing of this film (made apparently for the BBC) was the perfect introduction to the evening. You got the feeling you were in for something special, and something above and beyond the normal gig experience.
It was the little odd parts of the night that worked magic for me. The quips between E and ‘The Chet’ (who is just the most amazing musician, and the only other person on stage with E at any part of the night), the big booming God-like voice talking to E through the speakers, and especially the book readings. They came from his recent book ‘Things the Grandchildren Should Know’ and they were alternately terribly funny and just heartbreaking. Chet read part of the book relating to the song Susan’s House, and in amongst funny dialogue between E and his neighbour, he drops a bomb of a line about his sister having just committed suicide. And then he followed that up Last Stop: This Town. My heart broke in two.
Another highlight was hearing It’s A Motherfucker live. This might be my favourite Eels song, and in the context of the evening I felt it completely differently. The dark beauty of this song never ceases to amaze me.
He has a way of writing and forming words that makes you want to wrap your arms around the whole world and just hug everything around you. You want to grab a hold of things because you know that even though there is so much beauty, it can be taken away in a blink. There is such a bittersweetness about his music and his songs, and I walked out of that theatre last night feeling humanity all around me.
I feel almost selfish that I needed this sort of presentation of his music to feel like I got the ‘real’ Eels experience. E laid it all on the line when he was last here, I’m sure, and wanted to rock out those particular songs for a reason. But I just felt like so much was lost. Last night, nothing was lost. I gained so much, and I think every single person in that room felt a little lucky to have experienced it. And it never for a second felt contrived, or overly dramatic, or ‘This Is Your Life’, or like he was playing the pity card. It felt about as far from any of that as you could imagine. It’s really rare that you come across this kind of reality and honesty in the music industry, and I thank the gods that people like E exist in this world. He’s here so people like me can come around to thinking more of the world and our place in it.
As usual, there is a wonderful review, photos and set list here.
I’m going to go and probably freeze my ass off in bed – it’s nights like tonight I especially miss the body heat in bed next to me. I think it’s time to drag out the other doona…