Mr.E and friends return to Leeds. In tracksuits.
It’s a bit crazy to think the diverse project of Mark Oliver Everett has been going for nearly 20 years now. A band that few everyday folk have heard much of beyond the mainstream successes of “Mr.E’s Beautiful Blues” and “Novocaine for The Soul”, yet command a sizeable cult following amongst the more musically addicted.
I suspect few bands have endured a similar emotional spectrum, and even fewer could convert such emotion into music in the same fashion. The despair of some of their work gives a whole new meaning to the “Blues” genre, whilst the more upbeat and angry rock is often exactly what a tube amplifier was warmed for, with a whole raft of trip-inspired voyages inbetween. Conformist and conventionalist this ain’t. For those not familiar, shame on you. But as a point of reference, I’d drop them in a similar bracket to Radiohead, but working class. and American. and Drunk.
Mr.E himself is an understandably unusual character, as I experienced the last time I photographed Eels at Leeds Academy. Between songs one and two, he’d instructed his tour manager to pop down to see us photographers, to remind us to stay well clear of the edge of the stage. He obviously takes personal space very seriously, and who was I to argue? I remember that occasion to be a very colourful affair, with lots of tweed and flat caps (yet strangely more Idaho than Ilkley Moor) and brass sections. It was the popping of my Eels cherry, and it was a lot more upbeat than I’d expected.
This time round the attire was, predictably, entirely different. The rest of the band took to the stage each a clone of E. Matching beard and sunglasses, and all wearing identical black Adidas tracksuits and trainers. E followed shotly after, donning his iconic flat cap. I’m fast learning nothing is ever normal with this band, and this was the same with the stage layout. The two guitarists and bassist were on plinths at the back of the stage. The drummer was on a plinth turned 45 degrees stage right, with E on a symmetrical plinth stage left. Was a bit quirky, and lent to additional angles for me, which was nice.
There wasn’t a whole lot of variety to photograph between songs one and three – occasionally a rainstick would be thrust at a microphone, and E took a maraca for a walk in the shadows during song 3, but otherwise it was a fairly stationary affair. Got the frames I was after, and Leeds grooved long into Tuesday evening. Good night? God damn right.