Mr E does Boston...

Tonight we're going to see/hear/experience The Eels: Mark Everett and his band have a new CD out and they land in Boston tonight - so we're going. A few years back we saw them at an odd little lounge in Boston - the Royale Theater - doing a show Mr. E dubbed "a children's performance" because it started at 7 pm but they stilled rocked the house.
This time around they are at the Berklee Performance Center - a much more upscale setting - with a set of songs that are vulnerable and nuanced: the Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett. The reviewers have not been kind about this song cycle - too stripped down musically to cover the same old psychological themes they say - but my hunch is that Mr. E (who is now 51) is trying something far more subtle than his time-tested bombasts. He is experimenting with communicating to adults. Gone are the wildass costumes that have served as ironic rock and roll armor for an insecure artist. Gone, too, are the sonic assaults on the senses that can evoke strong reactions but then just fade away. 

Indeed, it may be that like other aging rock artists from Springsteen and U2 to Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan, Mr. E is finding his own persona as he learns to share from the heart without having to kick your ass. I am ALL for mature artists continuing to make music beyond their initial adolescent buzz. Jazz cats have been doing it with style for almost 100 years. Besides, NOBODY really wants to see Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey play-acting teenage angst to "My Generation" one more time.

When Springsteen did "The Ghost of Tom Joad" tour - a solo acoustic gig with minimal sound loops - it was brilliant. Here was a middle aged man singing about an America that had become a moral wasteland. About 10 years later he did another ground breaking solo tour that re-framed his early music to the sensibilities of maturity. And when he returned to the rock and roll venue, there was a depth, compassion and emotional wisdom in his music that rang true across the generations. Not only had Bruce moved through "Growin' Up" (one of my favorite early songs), but now he had the vision of an elder who had paid his dues.
The new CDs by McLachlan and Amos also embrace a newly won gravitas as they enter late-middle age. It is my suspicion that E is moving through this same rocky ground and I look forward to what he discovers... 

Comments

Dee said…
Friend, your posting brought tears to my eyes. Christ, I am going to have to get a box of Kleenex. Your words name a difficult movement of the spirit, I believe. Naming it is part of the journey. Making something so personal and subtle more universal...like Bruce does with his song. I wasn't familiar with the Bruce song, though I love his music. More Kleenex here. And freedom...not the adolescent kind where you think that there will be no consequences or that you will be preserved somehow, or pickled, or whatever-- but knowing and abiding in a truth that is beyond and yet real. Have a wonderful concert and return safely on those Boston roads...May God grant you night vision when tired and driving.
RJ said…
Thank you so much, Dee. I am grateful and touched by your kind words. Mr. E was very insightful and making the transition to sharing being open, real, vulnerable AND creative (even if some of his fans are having a hard time catching up.) More soon. And again, thank you so much.

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