NOT many artists get a kick from playing to a half-empty room once their gig has ended, but then Mark Oliver Everett - aka E - is no ordinary frontman.
The maverick genius behind the Eels, E’s boundless wit and tragic past have left him with a rather unique sense of humour, and one which caught out many fans who left Wednesday’s gig at the O2 Academy promptly after the lights went up.
With much of their crowd spilling out onto Newcastle’s streets, the group suddenly sprung back onstage to the delight of a few hundred stragglers, who’d already enjoyed a tremendous set complete with two encores.
We should have seen it coming really; and it proved a fabulous way to end the night, even though the main show itself left little to be desired.
Heavy on amped-up rock and material from latest album Wonderful, Glorious, the night’s setlist reeled off many of E’s more muscular tunes, with the filthy stomp of Dog Faced Boy and golden jubilance of Prizefighter especially excellent.
The new record is solid rather than spectacular, but its songs all slotted in nicely, particularly Peach Blossom, whose melodic crunch is sure to see it remain a live fixture long after this tour has run its course.
There was, of course, also room for a healthy dose of trademark melancholy, although these tracks tended to be recent favourites as opposed to the tortured outpourings of grief from earlier records.
Indeed, it was perhaps telling that E got his darkest number - Cancer For The Cure, from 1998’s heartbreaking masterpiece Electro-Shock Blues - out of the way first, after which his mood was distinctly buoyant.
Whether he was goofing around during songs, keeping his audience entertained between them, or melding two of his most treasured into one (as was the case with My Beloved Monster and Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues), this was a show which thrived through the strength of his personality, which also applies to his finest music.
The fans, needless to say, loved it, and without exception left with smiles on their faces - even those who weren’t lucky enough to witness the closing stunt.
In fact, it’s that predictability and not knowing what to expect next which makes Eels such a great live band, and why their next visit cannot come soon enough.