At the end of a very soggy day stumbling up and down the streets of Seattle, we were ready to spend the evening warming our blood with a smoking hot concert at the historical Moore Theatre. Seeing Eels perform was, after all, the impetus to this whole west coast turkeyless mini-break in the first place. And the icing on the musical cake was the opportunity to meet up with BLIP friend Anjo and her friend Mary, putting what I believe are the 19th and 20th notches in my internet meetup belt.
We had amazing seats, centre stage, third row. As it turns out, we would not have wanted to be any closer, because the space between the seats and the stage immediately filled with a crush of jumping up and down bodies as Eels took to the stage, and, unless they also stood, the people in the first two rows could see fuck all.
The first opener was, inexplicably, a ventriloquist. And not just any ventriloquist, but one who was simply horrible. Thankfully his set was only 15 minutes long or I would have been forced to gouge out my own eyes with a spoon or, at the very least, stab the people who were actually laughing at his jokes.
But then Jesca Hoop saved me from performing unspeakable acts. Think Regina Spektor meets Cindy Lou Who, with a little Bjork thrown in for good measure, and you get the gist of the sound and the picture. Quite the spectacular figure she cut, with the question mark hairdo and the overly modest red plaid dress. With songs that were simultaneously ethereal and experimental, she was imminently fascinating.
A lapsed Mormon, who had to leave the church when her "hair would no longer fit through the church doors", Jesca told the most amazing between-song stories. My favourite was the one about the time that her staunch Mormon mother asked her and her brother to provide her with some pot to combat the pain of stomach cancer, and how, once her mom had received the peanut butter jar of dope that they had sent in the mail, Jesca then had to get high with her mom over the phone, to teach her how to do it.
Fun fact: Jesca Hoop was once a nanny for Tom Waits' kids.
And then came Eels.
I've been struggling to to understand just what it was about this concert, which was high-octane and note perfect, that left me feeling removed from the experience. The Eels who played the Moore Theatre on Saturday night were a very competent band who played a tight set, comprised of a great mix of hard rocking anthems interspersed with heartfelt romantic ballads. But, despite the fact that people were dancing in front of the stage, there was a distance between band and audience. That connection, which is the truly magical part of a live performance, never really happened, at least not for me.
As odd as this may sound, a lot of that may have been because of how Mark Oliver Everett presented himself. Sporting dark sunglasses and a head scarf pulled down so low over them so that only a sliver of those impenetrable glasses was visible between the scarf and the full beard which hid his features, Mr E was all but invisible behind the disguise. And he never really stepped out from behind that mask to address us as anything more than an anonymous wall of people, no different from the people he plays for every night.
There were some interesting covers - Summertime, the Loving Spoonful's Summer in the City - and there were popsicle hucked out to the crowd, which was a very nice touch. Especially since we can now brag that we each got a popsicle from M E. But somehow, something didn't really mesh.
Maybe it was simply a matter of this concert coming only two days after one of the finest and most feel-good concerts (James in Vancouver) that I have ever experienced, which set unfair standards of concert expectations upon this Eels show. Maybe it was, as Mary pointed out, that it felt like Mark Oliver Everett and the band of musicians who accompany him, as opposed to the solid entity of James a couple of nights previous. A musical entity which felt, as the Offspring put it, like a twenty year marriage.
I still love the music of Eels, but Saturday's show lacked that enigmatic magic.
Having drinks with our new Seattle friends afterwards, though, was a joy and a true highlight of the evening. It's always life-affirming to make new connections, and Anjo and Mary made us feel welcome and so glad that we ventured out on a rainy Seattle night.
And it's never a bad thing to discover a new Whoville character who can sing.