Thank you, Mr. E...

NOTE:  some readers may be offended by one of Mr. E's tunes - spoiler alert - while the language is rough the sentiment is sacred.  Be forewarned, ok?

Last night's Eels show was everything I had hoped for - and more! Mr. E was communicating emotionally rich songs in a creative and beautiful way as an adult sharing music with adults. To be sure, not everyone in the audience was ready to leave their frat/sorority house behind - the knuckleheads behind us at the Berklee Center for the Performing Arts clearly would have had more fun if they had stayed at whatever bar they came from - and not everyone knew how to take Mr. E's new arrangement of songs that formerly shared an over-the-top arrangement but had now been paired down to their essence. As he sings on his new CD - doing a brilliant cover of the blues band incarnation of Fleetwood Mac - "Oh Well..."
Three thoughts keep running through my mind about this show:

+ First, Mr. E's arrangements speak to his comfort as a band leader AND his sophistication as a musician. Yes, his piano form is backasswards - he does everything wrong - but it all works. Last night's ensemble included the core Eels on bass, guitar and percussion - plus a brilliant young coronet player. With this type of band there was no place to hide underneath noise or feedback or distortion (as much as I love them all!) No, every note had to ring true - the sound was crystal clear but never overpowering - and every song had to stand on the beauty and integrity of the melody and lyrics. And, from my perspective, he pulled it off with grace and humility. Old songs popped when disconnected from their pyrotechnics and the new tunes stood up to the scrutiny of being played by essential a modern jazz quartet.
+ Second, Mr. E isn't afraid to be awkward with sharing his emotional life. He knows he's been a mess - and will likely be a mess again - but when E is the most personal he communicates most profoundly with most of us. That is one of the ironies of art: the personal really DOES communicate to the vast public (when we're honest.) I was moved to tears by an old song given a fresh and simple new sound - It's a Motherfucker - mostly because it says out loud what I have felt giving my heart away in love: in spite of all the pain and fear and sorrow of the past, love changes us forever. (Apparently, singing this very song brought ex-Journey singer, Steve Perry, out to the stage to sing it with Mr. E in St. Paul.)
+ And third, in a way that once again reminds me of a maturing Springsteen, Mr. E knows his music.  When Bruce was a young dude he would often hide his most vulnerable songs inside kickass rock and roll treasures. And he always shares at least ONE golden oldie in his shows just to stay grounded in his tradition.  When I saw Mr. E four years ago, he opened with "She Said Yeah" - a rockabilly song I first heard the Stones cover in their early days - and I was immediately impressed. 

Last night he opened the show with "When You Wish Upon a Star" and went on to include two other covers that blew me away:  his encore was the Elvis classic, "I Can't Help Falling in Love" - what a tender gesture of affection and appreciation - and when the encores were over (during which he did a grand surfing take on his own "I Like Birds") he closed with Harry Nilsson's, "Turn On Your Radio." Now, not only is Nilsson one of the great American pop composers, but his songs have a depth, breadth and wit that is rivaled only by Tom Waits and Randy Newman. This was pure magic.

I was blessed by a little heaven on earth as I took in Mr. E's mature music last night - and I am so grateful.


Popular Posts