Live: Seeing Right Through Everclear

Art Alexakis and gang go through the motions in Toronto.

TORONTO -- You've got to admire a band with the tenacity to launch

into an instrumental three songs into its set.

Or do you?

How could you not look fondly on a band with enough confidence to stick a

miniature acoustic session slap-bang in the middle of two eardrum-blowing rock

songs, and the balls to actually play to the whole room, rather than just the fair-

weather fans, something which many bigger bands, bloated with their own success, have succumbed to?

Everclear did everything one could hope for from a great performance during

their show at The Opera House in Toronto Sunday. But there was something

lacking. The music was loud, the songs catchy and the performance gutsy, yet it

seemed as though Everclear were not really there.

From the second frontman Art Alexakis, bassist Craig Montoya and drummer

Greg Eklund appeared onstage, all clad in identical black jeans and T-shirts, it

was obvious they were more going through the motions than feeling the

emotion of the night. To the untrained Everclear eye, it seemed as good as any

show they'd played in recent years.

But it wasn't.

In many ways, it seemed, Everclear were just selling themselves short. It was

sad to see songs such as "Father of Mine" and "I Will Buy You A New Life" -- so

full of personality, beauty and substance on record -- reduced to nothing more

than another in a long line of tired old crowd-surfing sing-a-longs (and, a little

further back, something for beer swilling jocks to get their rocks off to).

Every move seemed calculated, uninspired, often forced. Not that this mattered one iota, of course, to the sizable moshpit of 15-year-olds, but for a band with so many nuances and complexities inherent in its studio work, shockingly little of it seemed to fare well in a live setting.

There were exceptions, of course. "Like a California King" was nothing short of

awe-inspiring, a crunching riff-athon, topped off brilliantly by the sheer energetic

spontaneity of Montoya and Alexakis screaming into the same mic. The addition

of a second drummer halfway through the song added to the aural explosion

which emanated from the stage and impacted the audience for the remainder

of the song.

"El Distortio de Melodica," the aforementioned instrumental, was also

memorable, with Alexakis stalking the stage like some diminutive ninja.

Sometimes jumping, sometimes spinning, but always cranking out that

maddeningly hummable tune on which the entire piece is based.

Unfortunately, those two songs were the only real high points of the evening.

The acoustic set, gutsy though it was in such an explosive environment, only

seemed to break the flow of the proceedings.

Call me a curmudgeon, but despite the volume, their arsenal of great tunes and

the gallons of sweat expelled by a band who undoubtedly really wanted to put

on a good show, Everclear came off as apathetic and uninspired Sunday night.

And, in turn, so was I.

[Tues., Nov. 11, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]