Paolo graciously humored me by hanging out in San Francisco one more day and catching another show.
eels, The Fillmore, May 31, 2006: I've bored many, many people with the story of how I first became an eels fan, but I'm nothing if not consistent. I was actually pretty sick of them in the mid-'90s, when the overflowing Dreamworks coffers afforded them a snazzy Mark Romanek video and overexposure on MTV. A shambolic (in a bad way) radio station gig confirmed my suspicions, and it would be another three years before I truly opened my ears to them, thanks to the wonderful environs of Largo. In fact, it was with a very heavy heart that I admitted I couldn't make their show at Largo with Zach Galifianakis on May 12.
Since then, I've tried to catch them every time they've come to San Francisco. I know I missed one show because it conflicted with a Wilco gig at the Fillmore, but on every other occasion, I've been rewarded with odd theatrics.
There was the show, for example, when E, acting frail and possibly blind, was physically escorted onstage by two roadies. That was also the show when, after the houselights had come up and the crew was moving their stuff offstage, they came back on for one more number. And the last time they came to the Fillmore, E kicked off the show not onstage but in a small booth at the back of the room. See why I'm in love??
So it was with much anticipation that I welcomed this show--and I wasn't disappointed. After the lights went down, a big, burly guy wearing a Security shirt (Krazy Al, I believe) took the stage, looked around, and beckoned the band to come up. He would be sort of a court jester for much of the evening, engaging in a wide range of activities: protecting E, doing calisthenics, lifting weights, and even playing instruments.
As for the eels, they were a different lineup than the other times I've seen them. I miss Butch a great deal, but in his place was Knuckles, a guy in a Civil War getup and an era-appropriate beard. In comparison, E and the other guitarist (the Chet?), looked fairly pedestrian in their standard-issue jumpsuits with aviator goggles.
We thought they were supposed to be promoting Eels with Strings Live at Town Hall, but in fact, they seemed fairly oblivious to their latest record. Instead, we got a good cross-section of their discography, including a reworked "My Beloved Monster" (heavy on the organ), the awesome "Last Stop: This Town," a raucous (and Jon Brion cowritten) "Not Ready Yet," and a few from Blinking Lights. More surprising, however, were the choice of covers. We heard, among others, Peaches' anthem "Rock Show" and the old standard "I Put a Spell on You" with a huge nod to Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
And to cap it off, toward the end of the show, Krazy Al donned a latex glove and made his way to the edge of the stage--to high-five random audience members (Paolo!). One of the roadies handed him a can of whipped cream, and continuing the crowd participation, he squirted it into the mouths of all who wanted it (me included).
The young sister duo Smoosh opened the show with their spunky and cute songs. I give them credit for not going the Hillary Duff route, even if some tunes started to blur together. They got a dedication from the eels during the latter's set and even returned to the stage for the encore, which saw them dancing to the music, taunting and eventually winning over Krazy Al, and contributing vocals to "I Like Birds."
But it's still not over, folks. They faked us out again and returned to the stage for one more song, "Saturday Morning," after the lights went up. My love affair with this band continues.
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