Secret Meeting score: 90
by Phil Scarisbrick
“What’s the score?” came the shout from the crowd. “What’s the score? The score is Rock’n’Roll my friend” was the reply from the man at the front of the stage. That man was Mark Oliver Everett, or Mr E as he is affectionately known. Coming four long years after Eels’ previous UK tour, tonight’s gig at Manchester Academy felt like the stakes were high. Add into the equation that the set overlapped with England’s World Cup game with Colombia, and you can see why the mood in the crowd was an odd mix of hopeful expectation, with more than a pinch of distraction, as many fans had one eye on the events unfolding in Moscow.
After a raptuous entrance soundtracked by the theme from Rocky, the band kicked things off with hugely energetic covers of The Who’s Out In The Street and Prince’s Raspberrry Beret. The mood was that of a party as a booming version of Bone Dry from this year’s The Deconstruction segued into Daisies of the Galaxy’s Flyswatter. Despite this, you could tell that large portions of the audience were distracted by events elsewhere. That was until, midsong, a huge cheer erupted and filled the academy.
Embracing the now fervent mood, the band then ripped through career highlights such as In My Dreams, a grunge-soaked Novocane for the Soul and a pogo-inducing, punky version of I Like Birds. A first encore saw a stripped back cover of another Prince song – this time When You Were Mine – that silenced the audience with its majesty (except some cretinous, and thankfully short-lived slow clapping from the back). While the second encore blasted through a frenetic Mr E.’s Beautiful Blues and the rock ‘n’ roll Hammer Horror evoking Fresh Blood. The final track was another cover- this time Brian Wilson’s Love and Mercy, and many a lump was firmly lodged in the throats of those gathered in front of the stage, as this beautiful song was delivered with effortless class and raw, pure emotion.
The backdrop of the England football team doing what they do best – making their fans suffer – could have proved tricky. In the end though, it added to the drama of the night, with the positive result making the party even more enjoyable. And after several crises in his personal life over the last few years, it was wonderful to see Mr. E back doing what he does best, and doing so with a brilliant band. It really was an astonishing night.