Everclear Break On Through To The Other Side

New York loves 'em.

ATN New York correspondent Mark Healy attended

Everclear's

performance in New York on Sunday, Feb. 18. Here's his report: When

it's so

easy to stagger on-stage and hide behind a protective indie sneer and just the

right pop contempt, Everclear's performance was refreshingly ballsy. With the

show originally slated for a smaller venue, then upgraded later to The Academy,

singer/guitarist Art Alexakis didn't even attempt to hide his satisfaction at

their warmest and most visible New York reception to date. Alexakis' eyes

scanned the balcony and the crowd, his face an image of gratitude and

disbelief. "Look at all of you," he said incredulously. Only he seemed

surprised by the turnout.

Is he too wise to be jaded? Too old to take

anything for granted? Or is he just oblivious to Everclear's bursting teen

appreciation. Of course the place was packed. Of course, everyone was happy to

be there, happy to go hoarse and lose a shoe or hurl a bra on-stage before the

night was through just to prove to Everclear that as far as they were concerned

they are the real deal and besides it was a bonus weekend night before a

meaningless national holiday and no one had anything in particular to do the

next day so they were just gonna throw themselves around and sing along and

lose their keys and make sure the three guys on stage got the

message.

Standing alone on stage with the kind of casual poise and

world-weary resolve, Art Alexakis began strumming the tender chords to

"Strawberry." Alexakis was joined by bass player Craig Montoya and drummer Greg

Eklund and as the horizontal bodies bobbed before him, he eased into the

soulful chorus "don't fall down now, you will never get up," though it was

clear the show hadn't really begun. Everclear then turned it up and laid it

down, jump-starting a potent set that would begin with the scratchy chords of

"Electra Made Me Blind" and end with two two-song encores a satiating hour and

a half later.

With Montoya constantly tooling and toying leadership

potential from his bass, and drummer Eklund striking a perfect mix of rowdiness

and restraint, it was obvious why Everclear works. With an over-compensating

power trio and brash straight-ahead chords to compete with, it's the artful

songwriting that measures up. On turns both forlorn and optimistic, thrashing

and melodic, Alexakis stepped back and made the most of his veteran

perspective. He's a thirty-four year old whose tastes of discord and addiction

are fresh enough to work as an authentic part of his vernacular--and he's old

enough to write wisely about them.

And with a second album ascending the

charts, Everclear has nothing to prove. They're secure in their jagged, grungey

ways to write smooth, rocking pop songs with lyrics that are strong enough to

be heard--and regrettably, sung along to. And sing along the audience

did. The

attentive kids didn't have to wait for a show-closing anthem for a chance to

chime in; Alexakis (overwhelmed with gratitude perhaps) let trail the chorus of

his opening song and had hundreds echoing his heartfelt plea.

The set combined new hits from Sparkle and

Fade and selections from their less-tidy World of

Noise, recorded when

they were just another Portland-based bar band. Ripping guitar leads and

well-restrained distortion kept everything lively and, despite their brief

three-minute bursts, they didn't reproduce the album for an audience. Instead,

they varied their tunes with improvised guitar riffs both sharp and lazy,

restless bass lines and lots of teen frustration.

The audience

participation returned with a ferocity that only a teen flight/ fantasy anthem

like "Summerland" could provoke: "We could find a place/ Make it what we want

to be/ No one really gives a fuck about us anyway..." Everclear revisited the

speedier, rougher songs of their first album World of Noise like "Your

Genius Hands" and "Loser Makes Good" which all had a bit more bite than their

more recent songs, even if few knew the words well enough to sing

along.

Everclear finished the set on an appropriate mainstream note,

playing their single "Santa Monica" with clarity and grit, then returned to

remember their roots with not one but two obligatory covers--slamming, sloppy

versions of Tom Petty's "American Girl" and AC/DC's "Sin City."

Before he

slipped behind the curtain for the third and final time, Alexakis again turned

his appreciative gaze to the audience. "I can't believe this place," he said.

"You guys are fuckin' awesome." And then, not above a little self-promotion, he

added, "We'll be back in two months."

We'll be

waiting.