Everynight Charley

Eels at Webster Hall / June 27, 2023

Few rock and roll bands find the proper balance between heart-aching sentiments and whimsical, humorous witticism. Since forming in 1991 in Los Angeles, California, and across 14 albums, Eels has been able to see-saw successfully between the two personas. The headlining concert at Webster Hall demonstrated that the musicians indeed can have it both ways.

Eels is the main musical vehicle for singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Mark Oliver Everett, known by the stage name E. Band members have changed over the years, both in the studio and on stage, making E the sole official member for most of the band’s output. Eels released its most album, Extreme Witchcraft, on January 28, 2022. Delayed due to the pandemic, the quartet is on its Hurricane Lockdown Tour in 2023.

After seemingly countless lineups, Eels performed at Webster Hall as a familiar quartet. E, with a longer, bushier, and grayer beard than ever, remained the frontman, vocalist, and occasional guitarist and percussionist. The Chet (Jeff Lyster), a 20-year collaborator, was on guitar, Big Al (Allen Hunter) was on bass, and Little Joe (Joe Mengis) was on drums. 

The visuals helped generate a lighthearted spirit to the concert. Appropriate for prom season, all four musicians wore black-lapel blazers, white tuxedo shirts, and bow ties. They all wore sunglasses as well.

Photo by Everynight Charley

E, who remained barefoot for the entire performance, was the most charismatic of the four musicians, playing to the edge of the stage. Upon his retreat from the edge, he frequently broke into his ‘Dad Dancing’ routine. Much of E’s between-song banter was light and humorous. Other moments of levity appeared on the projection screen, including caricatures of the musicians faces and announcements when a musicians reached his goal of 10,000 steps for the day.

Eels opened with “Steam Engine” from their most recent album and rocked through a speedy four-song set before E paused to speak with the audience. The set list covered early and recent songs. Songs introspectively reflecting on serious subjects alternated with comedic songs like “Dog Faced Boy.” Eels has transformed several times its “My Beloved Monster” from the Shrek soundtrack; this time E sang the lyrics to the band playing the music of the Kink’s “You Really Got Me.” Most puzzling of all was the extended cover of Argent’s “God Gave Rock and Roll to You,” with support act Austin Antoine joining with freestyle rap.

Nevertheless, for a band known to specialize in energized rock and roll, the show had way too many soft and slow songs. “Friendly Ghost,” “I Need Some Sleep,” and several similar numbers brought on the melancholy. Bangers like “Good Night on Earth” and “I Like Birds” were too sparse. The somber songs were performed well – Eels just needed to rock more.

Photo by Everynight Charley