Daily Variety
May 14, 2005

Roxy Theatre
May 12, 2005
By Steve Mirkin

At this point in his career, about the only thing one can reasonably expect from Eels leader Mark Oliver Everett is that he'll do something unexpected. Last time Eels played Los Angeles, he fronted a grinding electric blues-rock band; at the Roxy Thursday night, Everett was backed by a string quartet. What makes such musical turnabouts even more impressive is that his reach has yet to exceed his grasp --- no matter what style he assays, Everett makes it work. He is the rarest of all things in today's musical landscape --- an original willing to pursue his vision wherever it takes him.

The new lineup reflects the mood on his new album, "Blinking Lights and Other Revelations" (Vagrant), a loosely structured song cycle on fate, family, growing up and heredity. But the strings (along with standup bass, guitar keyboards and, occasionally, a musical saw) bring an extra layer of pathos to the mix, with the first-person narratives of "Railroad Man" and "The Stars Shine in the Sky Tonight" approaching the humanity and nuanced observations of Tom Waits and Randy Newman. Older songs are recast and given more depth. The singer of "Bus Stop Boxer" sounds even more benighted, the saw moaning behind him undercutting his pugnacious posing. And, as he has on past tours, Everett pulls out covers that perfectly illustrate the roots of his new sound. This time out it's a note-perfect version of the Left Banke's "Pretty Ballerina" and a lovely, tender reading of Dylan's "Girl From the North Country."

Considering how many of the evening's songs deal with death or people living on society's edge, the show had its share of humor and optimism. Eels were preceded by a witty faux-promotional film giving a history of the band ("28 transitory members and one deeply troubled permanent member") and, during the show, Everett got into a couple mock shouting matches with the aud, but the set ended with "Things the Grandchildren Should Know," a song that included the lyrics "I do some stupid things/but my heart's in the right place" and "I'm a very thankful man."

Hollywood Reporter
May 14, 2005

Roxy Theatre May 12, 2005
by Craig Rosen

It was only appropriate that Eels chose to debut material from their new two-disc set "Blinking Lights and Other Revelations" on the same night the penultimate episode of "Survivor" aired.

The band's frontman, E (born Mark Oliver Everett), is truly a rock 'n' roll survivor. Having endured family tragedies and record company mergers, he emerged Thursday at the Roxy with his most ambitious live performance to date.

Eels are essentially E and an evolving cast of musicians he rounds up for each project and tour. Having just released a 33-song opus -- his debut for indie label Vagrant -- E chose to hit the road this time around with a female string quartet and two male multi-instrumentalists. It's a bold move, but it worked during the intimate 100-minute set, which served as a warm-up date for the Eels With Strings tour.

Bearded and bespectacled, E walked the line between pretension and ambition at the Roxy. With his gruff vocals and rich orchestrations, he mined lyrical terrain abutting Brian Wilson's bedroom and beaches, Tom Waits' Hollywood lowlife and Randy Newman's wry cinematic visions. While it might seem premature to put E in the company of such L.A. singer-songwriter elite, his set made it clear that's where he's headed.

After opening with the somber instrumental "Going to Your Funeral, Pt. 2," E -- dressed in a suit and sporting a walking stick and cigar -- led the band through songs from his recent set as well as selections from the group's catalog. The most impressive part of the set was its pure musicality. During the show, E played three different keyboards and acoustic guitar; Big Al (Alan Hunter) played stand-up bass and piano; and the Chet (Chet Lyster) moved from pedal steel guitar to electric, mandolin, saw and a makeshift drum kit consisting of a small trashcan and a gear case. The string quartet (violinists Paloma Udovic and Julie Carpenter, violist Heather Lockie and cellist Ana Lenchantin) weren't limited to strings. A few times during the evening, they were transformed into a rhythm section playing an assortment of maracas, shakers and tambourines.

With this sympathetic instrumental backing, E's twisted tales of disappointment, death and the occasional horrors of everyday life reached new emotional depths. Particularly moving were the punchy rhythmic stomp of "Bus Stop Boxer" and the heart-wrenching "Suicide Life."

E occasionally lightened the mood with his quirky mannerisms, heckling the crowd and whipping out the novelty numbers "I Like Birds" and, for the evening's most rocking moment, "Dog Faced Boy." A cameo by former Eels bassist Koool G. Murder also brought laughs.

E proved at the Roxy that he's one of the city's finest musical treasures. No kidding.

Los Angeles Times

May 14, 2005
by Steve Hochman

A New, Happier Attitude

A more playful Mark Oliver Everett leads the revamped Eels to a place where he fully embraces life.

Normally the worst thing that can happen to an artist is to become happy, then content. Where's the inspiration in that?

Not so with Mark Oliver Everett, the one stable member of the band the Eels -- or, as stated in a film promo screened before the group's show at the Roxy on Thursday, the one "deeply troubled permanent member" of the Eels. The troubled part was a role Everett seemed to take to heart over the years, working out personal torment and tragedy (such as the deaths of just about everyone in his immediate family) in song.

But Thursday, introducing the latest Eels lineup (including a string quartet and two multi-instrumentalists), Everett seemed happier and more playful than ever, even if, with short-cropped hair, scruffy beard, drab gray sports coat and cigar, he looked like a dissident Soviet writer.

The concert was built around songs from the new "Blinking Lights and Other Revelations" double-CD, a series of finely crafted miniatures chronicling Everett's journey to a place where he can fully embrace life. Though generally somber, it's some of the most engaging, involving material of an impressive catalog. Everett and crew brought the music to life via instruments that included the autoharp, musical saw, melodeon and a celesta, along with more conventional choices.

A sparkling version of the Lefte Banke's 1967 baroque-pop classic "Pretty Ballerina" and a personalized adaptation of Bob Dylan's wistful, folk-derived "Girl From the North Country" were perfect punctuations for Eels songs both melancholy ("Dust of Ages") and buoyant ("Now You're Really Living").

None, though, was more telling than the encore of his taking-stock "Grace Kelly Blues," initially recorded in 2000. Back then when he sang "I think you know I'll be OK," it sounded as if he was trying to convince himself. This time he sounded as if he had no doubts.

Manchester Evening News
May 22, 2005

Eels @ Bridgewater Hall
by Chris Horkan

A FUNNY thing, tragedy. While by its very nature sad, it has moved Eels' front man Mark Everett to write some truly heart-warming songs during his often-tragic life. And last night's sold-out show at the classy Bridgewater Hall gave Everett, aka E, the perfect opportunity to showcase some of the gentler selections from his varied songbook.

Leading a band consisting of an all-girl string section and two multi-talented male musicians, a besuited E arrived on stage with walking stick by his side and cigar in hand. Blitzing through half a dozen songs in the first 15 minutes, he didn't communicate much - at one point he said "Don't talk to me!" in what sounded a semi-serious tone - but eventually warmed to the crowd.

Though relying heavily on Eels' grand new album Blinking Lights And Other Revelations, the evening included many reworked highlights from throughout E's recording career. Beautiful Freak's My Beloved Monster and Spunky worked great with strings while fans were treated to pre-Eels song The Only Thing I Care About and a subtle cover of Dylan's Girl From The North Country.

Like the new album, the performance was broken up by short instrumentals. By finishing with four separate encores (including one well after the lights came on) this evening, too, could be described as epic.

For Mark Everett, it seems music is the best kind of therapy.

The Scotsman
May 24, 2005

Fiona Shepherd

EELS ****

NEVER knowingly second-guessed, Eels mainman Mark Everett, or E, as he likes to be called, has enlisted a string quartet as a backing band for his latest outing and chosen a cute, vintage Russian cartoon as his support act. But having just released a double album, Blinking Lights, into which he has poured a decade of bereavement and misery (his mother died and his sister committed suicide in heartbreakingly sudden succession), he is allowed a little indulgence.

As it turned out, there was nothing indulgent about this disarming set, except possibly the idiosyncratic embellishing flourishes of E's decorative walking cane and fat cigar. The strings provided the ideal musical accompaniment for his husky melancholy, wickedly witty miserableness and almost blithe self-loathing. Like a resolutely non-funky Beck, E has a knack for placing a chiming melody in an off-kilter setting. What the strings couldn't convey could be expressed on melodica, singing saw and a drum fashioned from a dustbin.

Such quirkiness never detracted from the yearning beauty of the music. Left-of-centre pop tunes, such as Trouble With Dreams, were interspersed with fleeting, delicate instrumentals. A cover of The Left Banke's gorgeous Pretty Ballerina slipped seamlessly into the wistful reverie. Dog Faced Boy was reborn on rumbling guitar, double bass and maracas.

Eels began life as another offbeat college rock band but, thanks to enterprises such as this, have become a fascinating, flexible vehicle for Everett's strengths as a perversely uplifting songwriter.

The Observer

Four Chord Wonders

Royal Festival Hall, London

THE LAST time I saw Mark Oliver Everett, alias E, the soul at the heart of the ever-changing Eels, he was standing in front of a big, brash band punishing a guitar and bellowing like a nutter.

This time around, he's taken up with a string quartet, retained the skeleton of a group and turned down his husky, dry voice for an affecting performance which runs to no fewer than 30 numbers and takes in a generous slice of April's double helping, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations.

It's hard to pick standouts because moments of beauty crop up all the way through the gig. The melancholic opener, 'Going To Your Funeral Pt II', sets the tone with its lovely singing saw and melodica over the Beatlesesque four-chord structure of the string parts, E ringing nursery riffs from a battered celeste.

Certain songs get warm welcomes - the pared rendition of 'Dirty Girl'; 'Pretty Ballerina' with its spooky wrong-note piano figure driven along by a drum kit made from a snare in a dustbin and a suitcase bass drum; a cool 'I Like Birds'. 'Railroad Man', strong with structure but full of feeling, proves what a fine songwriter Everett is. The band close the fourth encore with a cheeky, strings-led version of Prince's 'I could Never Take The Place Of Your Man'. Great.

The Daily Star
May 25, 2005

Royal Festival Hall, London


EELS front man E told me last week he's likely to hang up his touring boots in the very near future. On evidence of this performance, I very much hope he does not.

Joined for this very special gig by a string quartet, double bassist, and guitarist-cum-saw player, the Los Angeles native illustrated just why he is such a truly extraordinary entertainer.

Whether wedged behind a tiny pump organ, spread in front of a piano or stood stage front with a cigar in one hand, silver-tipped cane in the other, E's tales of whimsy, regret, lost love and hope sparkle in the intimate surroundings.

There's one more show planned for the South Bank next month. I suggest you check E out, before it's too late.

The Guardian

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
June 12, 2005


by Adam Sweeting

Eels mastermind Mark Oliver Everett, alias E, has not suffered a shortage of critical acclaim over the past dozen years, but his latest work, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, has propelled him to new heights. It's a double album spanning birth, death and all stations in between, a Geek's Progress from a busted-up childhood to a kind of resigned, bloodstained wisdom.

To play it live, E has surrounded himself with a compact but versatile ensemble comprising a female string quartet and a couple of musicians, Chet Lyster and Big Al Hunter, who spend the evening juggling half a dozen instruments each, from stand-up bass and autoharp to saw and pedal steel.

Three weeks ago they played next door at the Royal Festival Hall, but the smaller QEH (to which they'd been invited back as part of Patti Smith's Meltdown) was a more sympathetic setting for their subtly nuanced chamber rock. E took the stage in a dark suit, carrying a black cane and smoking a cigar, like Groucho Marx masquerading as a Baptist preacher. He set the mood with the hymn-like Dust of Ages, a statement of intent about shrugging off the weight of the world, then took off on a guided tour of the Blinking Lights material. In the Yard, Behind the Church was nostalgic and melancholy, but Son of a Bitch managed to squeeze some black humour from its unpromising subject matter ("Daddy was a drunk, a most unpleasant man"). The band tiptoed discreetly through Blinking Lights, and E sent them away altogether while he performed a serenely simple version of Railroad Man on acoustic guitar. By the time he got to Losing Streak, it was possible to discern a glimmer of optimism.

For the encores, E gave the rest of his catalogue a look in, pairing off Souljacker with Wooden Nickels and finding space for a haunting interpretation of Bob Dylan's Girl of the North Country. The concluding blast of Dog Faced Boy, featuring his old buddy John Parish on electric guitar, was E's reminder that this intimate acoustic phase won't last forever.


The Independent
October 14, 2005
by Nick Hasted

Royal Albert Hall

4 stars

Eels' Mark Everett is one of pop's greatest malcontents

Mark Everett, aka E, and Eels' only constant, prefaces tonight with a short film, by way of explanation as to where he's at. It inter-cuts blasts of his thrilling pop music with footage of him seething and snapping at the dignity-stripping media machine he's had to mince himself through to promote it. His refusal to do so much since his big 1996 hit "Novocaine For The Soul" explains why he's sunk back into cult status, albeit a cult still big enough to fill Albert Hall.

E's sister committed suicide and his mother died of cancer around the same time, compounding the depression that already ran deep in the musician. He has had more losses since, and current double album Blinking Lights and Other Revelations is only the latest in a torrent of heartfelt, death-haunted music. The comfort of making it has literally saved his life.

Stubbornness is another element in E's survival, against which he has smashed all the rules of pop success, until he can now play what and how he wants. He comes on like an alt.rock Sinatra, in a homburg and black suit, with a cigar that glows like brimstone in the dark. A glamorous string quartet and old, weird instruments -- zithers, mandolins and theremins -- dominate his current band; E taking his seat at a saloon pianola, with a dustbin serving as a drum. "Son of a Bitch" soon introduces his theme of domestic darkness. "It's a Motherfucker", pretty like an Old Hollywood score tonight, begins the visits to the cancer ward -- the past which, as he sings on a soft song later, "doesn't let me run too fast." The resilience of the council to a would-be suicide in "If You See Natalie" similarly explores an emotional zone most listeners have knowledge of, but most pop ignores. E's death-battered life means he can't.

"Railroad Man" is equally heartfelt, about the obsolescence of honest endeavour. As E stands in his old suit, strumming an acoustic guitar to pin-drop silence, he seems to hold back the future personally. Dylan's "Girl from the North Country" gives a nod to this venue's most famous pop player. And, like Dylan, E then proceeds to test his audience's patience to snapping point. A twitchy, theremin-haunted "Flyswatter" is dragged into free jazz, stygian discordance, which resolves into a raw, barked "Novocaine for the Soul". There goes the big hit.

The first encore gives some needed relief. A rattling "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)", about pain as the price of life, is a glimpse of the depth-charged pop career he could have had. But it's the third encore that shows E's sly convention-splintering at its best. The lights are up and I'm on my way home before I hear "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues", and return to find the band playing it in their pyjamas, to a half-empty hall of grinning fans. One of pop's Greatest malcontents couldn't resist the last laugh.

The Daily Telegraph
October 14, 2005
by David Cheal

Royal Albert Hall


The last time I saw Mark Everett, he was on stage with his band, Eels, who were hammering away at their instruments while he grappled with a very heavy-looking keyboard, rocking it so hard that it was at risk of toppling over.

That was some years ago; now he's touring the world with the latest incarnation of his band in a show which is subtitled "with strings" -- a rather gentler affair than his fans may be accustomed to. This was the first of two UK shows, before an appreciative, packed Albert Hall. And very lovely it was, too.

As if to accentuate the restrained, refined nature of the evening, the bearded Everett sauntered on stage dressed like a German novelist from the early years of the 20th century: a brown buttoned-up suit, black shoes, a homburg hat, big round glasses. He carried a silver-topped cane and smoked a cigar.

Behind him: a double-bassist with a Mohican haircut, wearing a suit; an equally besuited multi-instrumentalist, whose initial task was to drum on what looked like an upturned dustbin with a flat cushion on top (later he would tap out a rhythm on the metal clasp of a suitcase, as well as playing a saw, a guitar, a pedal steel guitar and a mandolin); and four very glamorous female string players. There was also a piano (which was played at various points by all three of the men in the band) and a battered-looking celesta.

The sound they made was warm, rich and textured. By contrast, Everett's voice was thick and scratchy, even more so on stage than on record, but his enunciation was good, so that lines such as "Daddy was a drunk -- a most unpleasant man" (from Son of a Bitch) came over loud and clear.

Although there were periodic forays into the back catalogue for songs such as Bus Stop Boxer and I Like Birds, both beautifully rearranged for the ensemble, a good deal of Everett's material came from this year's harrowing autobiographical album, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations.

At times it was bleak stuff (especially I'm Going to Stop Pretending that I Didn't Break Your Heart), but towards the end of the show Everett brought us out into the daylight with the strong, purposeful Hey Man (Now You're Really Living) and Things the Grandchildren Should Know, on which he sang with almost excruciating honesty about moving from darkness into acceptance, over music that simply shimmered. What a strange, interesting man. And what a rich, rewarding show.