EELS at House of Blues, 5/17/14
Photos by Jim Bricker
House of Blues
May 17, 2014
Those that ascended to House of Blues Saturday night expected a rock show. And while they eventually got a very stripped-down version of one, they definitely left having paid for a differently packaged product than they received.
Those that were expecting the prototypical EELS performance, which Houston has seen a few times over the recent years, were treated to something a bit different. The same band was there, including enigmatic front man Mark Oliver Everett, but the configuration was very different.
I was immediately thrown back upon my arrival into the Music Hall. Replacing the usual general admission dance floor were rows of seats about half full of confused patrons. I've been to House of Blues more times than I can count, and have never seen a seated performance there, so it was much to my bewilderment when I walked through the doors.
Fortunately, I'm equipped to adapt to any musical circumstance.
Thankfully, within minutes the lights dimmed, and those still feeling awkward and confused about the configuration of the room shuffled to their seats while Everett, better known as E took the stage for a solo version of "When You Wish Upon A Star."
Trimmed and far more dapper than ever before, E took to the piano on the corner of the stage for a quiet solo opening number. Joined by the rest of the band, who took their places towards the back of the stage, E made it to the microphone in the center with an acoustic guitar.
Instead of the electric instruments most fans are used to, the entire band opted for the softer versions of their normal tools of the trade. While there had been many cues that this show was not going to be your standard EELS performance, those questions quickly became realities as the hushed crowd slowly took it in.
Rather than the fuzzy 90's alt-rock they've made a name playing, we were treated to 90 minutes of acoustic driven music that traded their normal licks for a bare bones approach to the songs people came to hear. While some might've been a bit disappointed at first, not one person left. And soon, not only were people not leaving, but they were all at the edge of their seats quietly mouthing the words to each and every song.
Which I think was the immediate appeal of this set to the true fans in attendance. Being able to sit and take in each dissected version of their favorite songs and actually be able to hear, and probably for the first time live for most, the little nuances that make their music so good.
It was definitely E's show from start to finish, and while he's always surrounded himself by standout players, there was a reason only one spotlight was in use Saturday night. And while he joked in between about how sad his songs are ("This one's not a bummer. No, no wait. It's a total bummer," or, "Aww, this is next level bummer. You might not be ready for this."), they all come in the form of catchy rock tunes, or on this night, catchy jazz, country and blues tunes.
Review continues on the next page.