Somerset House, London, July 7th 2011
Somerset House is a truly astounding venue, crackling with history and grandeur – and the same can be said for its Summer Series, which kicked off last night and is set to play host to greats like Blondie, newbies like Hurts and comeback kids like Beady Eye. Last night Jesca Hoop started proceedings as the clouds drew in, and Californian stalwarts Eels were the first headliners of the 2011 line-up, bringing with them American swagger and enough communal hair to make Wayne Rooney green with envy…
The Eels’ sound has evolved through their lo-fi career, going from their alt-rock beginnings to now including its fair share of country, blues and big band, the on-stage ensemble consisting of a sizeable brass section, trumpets blaring. Lead singer Mark Oliver Everett – E to his mates – now brings to mind a cross between ZZ Top and Chas or Dave, all straggly beard, flat cap and gee-tar. But the comparisons end their with the cockerney duo, as E and his bandmates are yankee through and through, working a blue collar set with middle class aspirations, E’s voice dark and echoey voice sounding like its been locked in a basement for years.
Eels produced their fare share of Status Quo-esque guitar-swaying (Prizefighter and Saturday Morning being just a couple), mixed with some psychedelia and pure rawk, but it was their roots-blues that really stood out, with Love Of The Loveless and Fresh Feeling getting the crowd going, My Beloved Monster turned into jaunty number and Novacaine For The Soul transported to a lighter-in-the-air singalong. “You’re so pretty!” E told us in between songs, looking out onto the crowd splattered across the picturesque courtyard.
The Eels haven’t had a hit single in the UK for years now but that didn’t matter one jot. These are crafted musicians and toned singers who kickstarted the Summer Series in some style.