Sure, recent local performances by the Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block and Britney Spears, not to mention the upcoming Houston dates of Katy Perry (July 29th at Toyota Center) and Kings of Leon (July 30th at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion), get all the summer concert publicity. It's far more challenging (and interesting), however, to break out of pop music confinement, take a night off from adding Lady Gaga and Kanye West remixes to the iPod and head out to see a singer-songwriter who dwells happily just left-of-center and under the radar.
Mark Oliver Everett, aka E, and his band Eels' show at Warehouse Live on Friday night would be a great place to start.
What you will find out by listening to E's 15-year outpouring of live hope, melancholy, heartbreak and (occasionally) irrational thought is that the music of Eels has been around you for quite awhile ... you just didn't realize it.
That cool late '90s alt-rock video for the catchy falsetto chorus of "Novocaine for the Soul?" The one where the band members fly around pissed-off Peter Pans? That was the Eels.
The sweet little song "My Beloved Monster" that originally humanized a loveable ogre in the first Shrek movie a decade ago? Eels
(Why radio went so gaga over Smash Mouth's cover of "I'm A Believer" instead of E's original gem is still a mystery to me.)
DreamWorks evidently thought Eels was the perfect band to musically charge the big green guy with the Scottish brogue. The animation giants brought the band back to put a soundtrack to Shrek's monstrous frustrations and failures in Shrek 2 ("I Need Some Sleep") and Shrek the Third ("Royal Pain").
E has always thought of himself as something of an oddball which made Shrek a perfect metaphor for his many quirky self-referential ditties.
More recently, however, he has filled the Eels repertoire with a much more serious, autobiographical body of songs. Beginning in 2009, the band released three albums — Hombre Loco, End Times and Tomorrow Morning — that tell tales of desire, despair and picking yourself up by the guitar strap.
Anybody who's ever spent time with any of Eels best works of the past have seen glimpses into his painful diary before and caught quick portraits of damaging ex-girlfriends ("Susan's House") and dysfunctional parents ("Son of a Bitch"). These new songs fill in the blanks.
The Eels mix of emotional highs and lows may not make for a night of beats and Auto-Tuned sing-alongs that some of these big pop extravaganzas promise. It will, however, be an honest night of live, blighted storytelling which, these days, is getting harder and harder outside of Texas country radio.
Eels, 8 p.m. Friday at Warehouse Live