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BEING THERE: The Eels @ World Cafe Live

Photo by PETE TROSHAK

The Eels have a history of odd opening acts. That streak continued on Saturday night, with opener Puddles Pity Party. Puddles [pictured, above]  is a six foot five clown clad in a white outfit who arrived on the World Café Live stage after shambling through the crowd with a lantern and suitcase in hand. He stood at the mic silently and stared into space for what felt like a nine months before opening his mouth. When he did finally sing he stunned the crowd with a short set of heartbreak ballads served up lounge style with a theatrical Bowie-esque voice. The highlight was Puddles delivering possibly the only listenable version of “My Heart Will Go On” ever performed. Suck it, Celine Dion. The packed house showed appreciation for the clown but were clearly there to see The Eels, the long running project of one Mark Oliver Everett aka E [pictured, right]. The Eels have generally been E composing songs and then recording an album with a rotating cast of players. Their new album, the excellent Wonderful, Glorious, was a collaborative effort, with the current band writing and recording the album as a unit and touring together. E and his band of tough looking cohorts displayed their solidarity by taking the stage clad in matching black tracksuits. They launched into “Bombs Away” and didn’t look back for 90 minutes of Eels style-ballads of love, loss and bad luck slathered in bluesy psychedelic pop. The band was tight and rocked the house with a winning blend of infectious enthusiasm and raw loudness. The set list was largely devoted to the new album along with a couple of surprising covers – a thundering stop-and-start version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” and a chiming, crowd-slaying romp through The Small Faces’ “Itchycoo Park.” They closed with the title track of the new album “Wonderful, Glorious” a blast of psychedelic sunshine with some Beach Boy harmonies about how “every night you spent shrouded in darkness has led you to this moment in the light” with the promise that “the sum of all the love inside your heart, will get you through your plight.” Which is really just another way of saying that in the end the love you make is equal to the love you take. Amen to that. — PETE TROSHAK

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