EELS @ Albert Hall, Manchester, 15 Sep
Performing a mix of covers and classics, on the last night of their tour EELS give one of their best ever performances
The Albert Hall – a venue pitched seemingly halfway between abandoned swimming pool and 18th century bear baiting pit – is as full as we've ever seen it. It’s a Sunday night. Most of the people here have work tomorrow. It’s that kind of a crowd. And yet it feels like a Saturday or better yet, a Friday. The anticipation is such that if you didn’t know any better you’d assume people were waiting for the return of triumphant local heroes. Gonna Fly Now (the theme from Rocky to you and me) kicks off and people lose their shit. Can it really be an EELS gig at this point in the history of the world? Yes. Yes it can.
Mr E mounts the stage with a trio of compadres and we’re treated to a feverish blast through a handful of cover versions: The Who’s Out in the Street, Bobbie Gentry’s Mississippi Delta and Prince’s Raspberry Beret. Terrific songs all rendered EELS-like thanks to E’s rasping vocals and the bar-room boogie blues of his compatriots. Is this a covers’ show? we think. No: we get Bone Dry, one of three tracks laid out from their most recent album The Deconstruction, Flyswatter (a veritable EELS classic) and Dog Faced Boy (another veritable EELS classic). Alright, time to strap ourselves in for a classic EELS show, the sort we’ve not seen for way too long.
Like the undoubted tease he is, after the rock we get the soft rock: they roll out I Need Some Sleep (from the Shrek 2 soundtrack of all things) and then Dirty Girl. After which they just settle back and play a good old fashioned rock show just like mama used to make. We get straightforward balls to the wall treats like Prizefighter and a cover of The Rolling Stones’ She Said Yeah. We get fucked up deconstructions of mega hits like My Beloved Monster, Novocaine for the Soul and Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues. They rock I Like Birds so hard it sounds like Beastie Boys doing Tough Guy. Hard. Core. In other words.
But they also find time for what can only be described as soulfulness, soulfulness akin to the silkiest of night-time attire, in the shape of I Like the Way This is Going and Love and Mercy (from Brian Wilson’s eponymous 1988 album). And, you know: Souljacker Part 1 and P.S. You Rock My World and Fresh Feeling. It’s the gig that keeps giving.Maybe there were people there who thought it all got a bit Lord of the Rings by the time the third encore rolled around, with all of E’s talk of it being the last night of the tour and the terrible curfew that meant he and all of the audience were probably going to wind up in jail, but for us they could’ve played until the dawn. Quite literally the best EELS show we’ve ever seen.