Everclear, American Hi-Fi Rock The Town That Bruce Built

Mayfield Four, Flipp open at Asbury Park, New Jersey's Convention Hall.

ASBURY PARK, New Jersey — It's called the Civic Tour, after the Honda automobile, but the attitude and style of Saturday's show, featuring Everclear and American Hi-Fi, was more reminiscent of a muscle car.

That is, loud, fast and sometimes outrageous.

Starting with blistering renditions of "So Much for the Afterglow," "Heroin Girl" and "Nehalem," headliners Everclear turned in a spirited set at the Convention Hall that was alternately ferocious and fun.

Following such hits as "Santa Monica," "Father of Mine" and "I Will Buy You a New Life," bassist Craig Montoya sang lead on a rehearsal-style version of David Bowie's "Suffragette City" to close the show. Coaxed back for an encore, the band treated the crowd to "Rock Star," with singer Art Alexakis inviting dozens of fans onstage and dubbing them the "Everclear Dancers."

The experience was reaffirming for diehard Everclear fans who were fearful that the band had grown too sedate on the recent Songs From an American Movie, Vol. One: Learning How to Smile and Songs From an American Movie, Vol. Two: Good Time for a Bad Attitude.

"I was kind of hoping that they didn't go completely pop," 17-year-old Joanna Kelly of Brooklyn, New York, said, referring to songs like "A.M. Radio," which came early in Everclear's set. "But they stayed true to themselves."

The Portland, Oregon, band — whose lineup also includes drummer Greg Eklund — has enjoyed a string of uptempo, melodic rock hits that explore the themes of parental abandonment and drug addiction. Saturday's show, which included assistance from three additional musicians on guitar, keyboards and percussion, offered fans a fairly even sampling from throughout the band's nine-year career.

"They mixed in a lot of old songs with the new songs," said Adam Butterfield, 20, of Jackson, New Jersey. "I'd thought they'd be soft, but no, they rocked."

The evening was not without hitches, however. The sound mix for Everclear's set was often muddy, and feedback was especially a problem on "A.M. Radio," but they got off easy compared to the other bands on the bill.

American Hi-Fi frontman Stacy Jones could hardly be heard through the mix. The former Letters to Cleo and Veruca Salt drummer and his bandmates performed in front of a flaming bird backdrop similar to the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am logo, alternating between power ballads and energetic rockers, including the Boston quartet's hit "Flavor of the Weak."

The Mayfield Four, from Spokane, Washington, churned out a dense set of earnest grunge-informed songs, capped by a cover of the Who's "Baba O'Riley." Muscular, tattooed singer Myles Kennedy swung his guitar at the mic stand and sent it flying to close the band's set.

Show openers Flipp, a cartoonish punk band from Minneapolis, are fronted by Brynn Arens, whose black-and-white makeup, red lipstick, spiked hair and pinstriped suit made him look like a cross between Al Capone, Johnny Rotten and Two-Face. Arens ended each song by giving audience members the middle finger, while Flipp's bass player, decked out in a faux-leather body suit and sporting a purple spiked Mohawk, donned a jet pack that shot sparks during a solo.

The group led the audience through a hyped-up rendition of John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and later returned to clown around with Everclear on "Suffragette City."

As for the Honda Civic, few in the audience seemed to notice or care that the tour was sponsored by Honda, despite the orange and black Civic, painted to resemble the cover of Everclear's Songs From an American Movie, Vol. Two, on display near the entrance of the hall.

"The bands have to make money, and it's better than paying $50 at the door," said 38-year-old Scott Vincelette of Sparta, New Jersey. Admission was $25 for the show, and approximately 1,200 attended — far from a sellout. "Now, I wish I didn't have to pay $3 for a cup of water."

The tour concludes July 30 in Davis, California.