Check out the bearded Eels and opening band The Submarines in our slideshow.
Eels, The Submarines Warehouse Live July 22, 2011
Between songs, Mark Oliver Everett repeatedly apologized for taking so long to return to Houston. After 14 years, he'd finally brought his band Eels to town, clad in suits, sunglasses, and enough facial hair to outfit a crew of lumberjacks.
Throughout the band's massive 90-minute set, though, Everett also showered the crowd with playful commentary. "I've got a really good feeling about this!" he yelled after a few songs, sprinkling in other exclamations like "this is fun!" "you have a nice smile!" and "that was very positive!" amongst several more.
And the show was fun, and positive, and bright and dark, and booming and sultry, and certainly playful as Everett's vocals ranged from high-pitched whoops to the plunging depths of Tom Waits' gravel. Everett's assemblage of musicians banged out song after song from across his discography. Given their attire and the throng of concertgoers that swelled the Warehouse Live ballroom, the atmosphere felt more like a big SXSW showcase than simply another show at the big venue. People were happy, and it - life, the universe, et al. - was good.
It was also a significant contrast to the energy of the room during The Submarines opening set. The California duo of John Dragonetti and Blake Hazard (F. Scott Fitzgerald's great-granddaughter) whisked through a brief seven-song set that fell shy of the 30-minute mark, with light and pop-laden tunes.
Most anyone who has been bombarded by Apple advertising has heard their "You, Me And The Bourgeoisie," which was featured in commercials for the iPhone 3G and 3GS. Its big hook celebrating happiness as Hazard sings "every day I wake up; I choose life; I choose love..."
The stage show paled in comparison though, as Hazard and Dragonetti both donned guitars and played to drum tracks streamed from a laptop. Occasionally Hazard would strike the xylophone in front of her, and on the final number she hoisted a melodica, but the absence of a full band seems to hamper the duo.
The songs are well-composed, and Hazard certainly has the necessary vocal talent. As they closed with a pair of more vigorous tunes, it felt as though they were reaching for something unattainable - an energy that, between the pair of them, they couldn't quite grasp.
The seven-member Eels, however, filled the room - with concert-goers as well as sound. There was plenty of couples action going on in the crowd - and we do mean action, as we saw many an arm-around hug and kiss and more than a few gropes (to the gentleman drunkenly grinding on his lady at the back of the ramp for several songs, we salute you).
It was this audience who were treated to the hefty set as Eels performed for Houston like they were still playing in front of the giant crowd at their recent Glastonbury appearance. Maybe it was the overwhelming positive attitude rolled forth from Everett or simply the bearded grins of his group who seemed to be genuinely having fun, but it was nigh impossible to come away with a negative outlook after the show.
Sometimes a band slips past a listener's radar for whatever reason, whether it was just a matter of being into a different scene when the group broke out or perhaps just not paying attention to friends' opinions - or possibly a simple blind ignorance. For us, Eels was one of those acts that had silently evaded us for a decade and a half.
The fact that they'd not been in town since 1997 probably didn't help our case, but we'll make no more excuses at this time. Count us as willing converts to the cause, as the entire hundred minute set served as a bountiful introduction to the group.
Everett's diverse catalog had us pleasantly surprised time after time, whether it was the pounding rumble of "That's Not Really Funny" or the soulful murder blues of "Fresh Blood." From the playful bounce of "Beginner's Luck" to the grungy, sailing "Novocaine For The Soul," or even the sweet calm of "That's Not Her Way," we drank it all down with a smile.
Personal Bias: Well, none. We came into the show completely uninitiated to the Eels catalog, but quickly became fans.
Random Notebook Dump: There's not another clean bathroom in the city that we dread entering as much as Warehouse Live's. Also, how is Everett getting away with selling his book for $25 when the cover price is $15?
The Crowd: An almost full Warehouse Ballroom mainly in their late 20s to mid-40s, but with enough kids to make our friend say, "The crowd's not as old as I thought it would be!"
Overheard In the Crowd: "You see all those beards up there onstage? If my boyfriend would grow his out like that, I would ride that shit like Seabiscuit."
Flyswatter That's Not Really Funny Saturday Morning Somebody's Watching You Grace Kelly Blues Packing Blankets Prizefighter My Beloved Monster Fresh Feeling That's Not Her Way Tremendous Dynamite Climbing Up To the Moon I Like the Way This Is Going This Is Where It Gets Good That Look You Give That Guy Hot Fun In The Summertime (Sly & the Family Stone cover) Band introductions Novocaine For The Soul Souljacker Part 1 I Like Birds Beginner's Luck Losing Streak
Last Stop: This Town PS You Rock My World
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Fresh Blood Looking Up