Review: Everclear reforms, returns to the stage at the Hard Rock Cafe in Tampa
To many, Everclear is the band that broke onto the scene in 1995 with the sunny and bittersweet Santa Monica. A string of minor hits followed over the next few years, but the band never seemed to recapture the success of their early single.
Still, the song captured the sound that would become Everclear’s trademark over the next decade — catchy, melodic pop rock driven by the wryly dark lyrics of frontman Art Alexakis. Alexakis has lived a troubled life, filled with addiction, death, poverty and — most importantly — love lost.
Despite the sometimes heavy lyrical content, the music often sounds more fun and games than bitter introspection, keeping Everclear palatable for mainstream crowds and radio play. But the problem is that Everclear hasn’t recorded an album for half a decade now, and two-thirds of the original lineup — drummer Greg Eklund and bassist Craig Montoya — left the band after the release of Everclear’s sixth album, Slow Motion Daydream, in 2003.
With a new lineup consisting of mostly new faces (save for two members present for the recording of the band’s latest effort, 2006’s Welcome to the Drama Club), I had to wonder if audiences would care about Everclear in 2011. The show, at the new Hard Rock Café in Tampa, was sure to draw a modest crowd of die-hards, but could a band that hasn’t been actively releasing new music for five years hold enough relevance to pull it off?
At 10 p.m., the band took to the stage and got straight to business with the energetic So Much for the Afterglow. The Café had really filled up, partly due to the smart design of the venue, which funnels part of the audience into a small standing-only area, creating a dense crowd immediately in front of the stage. The sound was a bit rocky for the first song, with the guitars way too low in the mix, and the band seemed a bit sluggish.
By the second song, Father of Mine, the sound was shaping up and the band’s energy kicked in. Alexakis had the entire crowd singing along at one point, and the sheer amount of people that knew the song, line for line, told me that yes — people still cared about Everclear.
Save for some mid-set lag, when the band trudged through an odd classic rock medley/instrument solo suite, the set was tight and filled with well-known tracks from the band’s catalog, such as Heroin Girl, Song from an American Movie, and a strong rendition of Wonderful. However, tracks from the band’s latest effort were notably absent, with the most recent number on the set list being Volvo Driving Soccer Mom.
The set was uneven at times, and even occasionally sloppy, but the band members seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves, and it was infectious. The new lineup had real chemistry, which I honestly wasn’t expecting, and it was great to see Alexakis performing with a band that was clearly glad to be there.
At just over an hour, Everclear ended the set with Santa Monica and left the stage. The inevitable encore came just moments later, when the band returned with a bit of organ and guitar noodling before launching into one last song.
Alexakis prefaced the song, I Will Buy You a New Life, by reminding us that it’s not about money, it’s about love. From a man that has experienced and lost more of both than most people will in their entire lives, it was a powerful statement. And judging by the reaction of the crowd at the Hard Rock, I think it meant something to them, too.
— Justin Grant, tbt*. Photo: Geneva Johnson.