Eels, Dome, Brighton

4.00

Laughter in the face of tragedy

Many musicians claim to have been saved by rock'n'roll but Mark Oliver Everett – singer, songwriter and driving force behind the US band Eels – wouldn't be alive without it. The death of his father from a heart attack when Everett was 19 was the first in a series of tragedies that, one by one, claimed the lives of his whole family.

Compounding the depression that already afflicted the musician, his sister committed suicide in 1996 and two years later his mother died of cancer. But rather than allow his grief to overwhelm him, Everett channelled his experiences into a series of darkly humourous and often beautiful albums.

Now, more than a decade into his career, he has added film-maker and writer to his repertoire. Excerpts from his newly published memoir Things the Grandchildren Should Know, detailing his extraordinary family history and his burgeoning success with Eels, are read out at tonight's performance, while last year's BBC documentary Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives, which saw Everett getting to know his late father, a quantum physics genius who developed the theory of parallel universes but never got the recognition he deserved, opens the show.

Following Everett's visits to Princeton where his father developed the theory, and the Pentagon where he later worked, it's a fitting and frequently funny introduction to a musician who, despite his considerable success, has always been on the outside looking in.

After the film comes the music, with Everett taking the stage in a trucker's cap and boiler suit. The set spans the Eels' career, from top 10 hit "Novocaine for the Soul" from their debut album Beautiful Freak, to tracks from their latest opus Blinking Lights and Other Revelations. Despite the songs' dark subject matter, the music is never depressing. Indeed, it's Everett's matter-of-factness in singing "Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor", an epitaph to his sister, or his paean to isolation "It's a Motherfucker" that makes it so moving.

Previous tours have seen Everett performing with a full band and string section but tonight's show is a pared-down affair in which, following a handful of acoustic numbers, he is accompanied on drums, guitars, harmonium and musical saw by a multi-instrumentalist, introduced simply as "the Chet". The pair enjoy the kind of synergetic relationship that, during "Flyswatter", allows them to swap instruments – one on drums, the other on piano – without missing a beat. It's a neat party trick that is about entertainment rather than ego.

Another of Chet's duties is reading book excerpts, one of which details Everett's surreal encounter with the actress Angie Dickinson during his first sojourn in Los Angeles. She was presenting a band with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the time, and Everett decided to introduce himself. He gave her a demo tape and waited for her call, but it never came.

If Chet is the straight man in this double act, then Everett is the clown. Belying the troubled history that fuels his art, he's an upbeat and charismatic presence with a nice line in self-parody. Sending up the narcissism and vanity of the rock star, Everett invites hecklers to "let it all out" and wonders what he can do to make himself feel good. He decides to read out some fan mail.

There's a couple of fawning letters from female admirers, but then comes one from a man in Perth. "You suck," it says. "Have a nice day." Book-ending the set is a booming Tom Baker-ish voice from the speakers, which announces "Mark Oscar [sic] Everett, this is your life." And what a hell of a life it's been.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Jess Glynne is UK number 1

music

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor