SAN FRANCISCO -- What a difference a hit makes.
When former House of Pain frontman
Everlast and his band, the White Folks,
played Slim's on Aug. 9, it was a month
before the release of his solo album,
Whitey Ford Sings The Blues.
A little more than 100 people showed up, and
a good number of those people were likely
there to check out the local hardcore-punk
band that opened.
Thanks to alternative-rock radio and MTV
embracing "What It's Like"
(RealAudio excerpt), the album's first single,
Everlast's show Sunday at Slim's was an
entirely different scene.
The venue was packed to its near-500
capacity. Kids hoping to get in were standing
along the wall outside, looking to grab any spare tickets. Those lucky enough to score tickets and get inside the South-of-Market club continually tried to push their way to the front, longing to get closer to the music and to Everlast (born Erik Schrody).
The rapper-vocalist mostly stood center stage strumming his acoustic guitar. Many members of the audience could be heard speculating before the show about what kind of set Everlast would play: House of Pain-style hip-hop or the blues-flavored funk of the Whitey Ford album?
The answer, it turned out, was a little bit of both and a whole lot of neither.
Throughout Whitey Ford Sings The
Blues, Everlast abandons the hard-driving
hip-hop that made him a star as a member of House of Pain and instead picks up a guitar to present a more sober and somber collection of songs that range from folk to Memphis soul to blues-rock.
In concert, he and the White Folks (a five-piece band that includes DJ Truly Odd and pedal-steel guitar player Bron Tieman) expanded their sound even further. They refused to stick to album versions of the songs.
Instead, they played with arrangements and let the emotions shine through by alternately softening or beefing up the intensity of the instrumentation.
For many fans at the show, the new versions of the songs were an unexpected treat. "I wasn't really sure what to expect," 19-year-old Jennifer Lewis said after the show. "I think he did a great job of mixing rap with the live music, which really wasn't how I thought it would go down."
Other concert-goers were expecting House of Pain redux but found themselves grooving on Everlast's new sound.
"I really wanted to hear 'Just Another Victim,' " Joseph Powers, 23, said, referring to the House of Pain/Helmet collaboration from the Judgment Night film soundtrack. "The show was really cool, though. I guess Everlast is on a whole other trip now."
Everlast clearly understood that many fans
wanted to hear his House of Pain songs, so
he obliged by playing updated versions of
the group's greatest hits. "Jump Around," for
example, was far removed from the hard-
driving sound of the original, but it retained
the party vibe that made it a hit. Its new,
prominent keyboard sound seemed to be
coming from a circus pipe-organ. It was
interlaced with DJ Truly Odd's cutting-and-
scratching of the original under Everlast's
almost lounge-singer-like delivery.
Though the song lacked the emphatic beats that made the original so lively, the crowd insisted on leaping every time the chorus came around.
Everlast also performed revised, and mostly shortened, versions of such House of Pain songs as "Who's The Man," "Legend" "Put Your Head Out" and "Put On Your Shit Kickers."
But the night was mostly about further exploring the blues-over-hip-hop-beats sound explored on Whitey Ford.
"Death Comes Callin'," which on record sounds like an extraordinarily funky song by '60s psychedelic-blues rockers the Doors, was given an even more trippy touch thanks to Tieman's distorted pedal-steel guitar work.
"Ends" (RealAudio excerpt), a bluesy lament about materialism, also received a make-over: Its anger quotient was turned up a few notches, courtesy of the pummeling live percussion and a snarling, punk-rockish delivery from Everlast.
It wasn't all snarling and jumping around, though.
Everlast repeatedly thanked the crowd for their support and politely requested that people not blow cigarette smoke toward the stage, because he said he is still recovering from heart surgery. His performance of "7 Years," a song that describes the breakup of a long-term relationship, had many couples slow-dancing.
The contemplative "What It's Like" held the audience's attention with its combination of tight musicianship and meaningful lyrics.
The last song in the set was a searing rendition of "Hot To Death," which, on Whitey Ford, is the cut that most matches the raw energy of Sunday's show.
Near the front of the stage, a mosh pit broke out for the first time, as Everlast gripped his microphone and scowled his way through the song as the White Folks kicked it.
The crowd in front of the stage began jumping as if the floor had suddenly caught fire. Even the more reserved spectators sitting at tables in Slim's balcony could be seen bobbing their heads in appreciation.
The club was in perpetual motion and so was Everlast.
Not bad for a guy who couldn't fill the place a mere two months ago.