Everclear is back. That’s what Art Alexakis shouted anyway, to the crowd at House of Blues Chicago on the night of Wednesday, January 27, 2010. With the fiery performance the group put on you’d have to believe them, too, and maybe even start to wonder if they ever really went away in the first place.
Everyone’s heard of Everclear, and most people can put the group’s name to their most famous song, Santa Monica, released in 1995 on the album Sparkle and Fade. But what became evident at the show on Wednesday, to me at least, is that Everclear is responsible for lots of the catchy songs that people have loudly sung along to over the past fifteen years. Everclear just always doesn’t get much credit for this – or maybe it’s taken for granted that their songs have good hooks and strong lyrics and it’s left at that. That’s not news, it’s just something I think a lot of people overlook or forget about. What is news to me, though, is that Everclear has a large, super dedicated fan base.
The audience knew most of the words to even the less popular songs on Wednesday night, and they sang along with a fevered enthusiasm to every lyric they could. After going to the show and seeing the band live myself, it made a lot more sense to me why. Everclear’s songs are good. Yeah, a lot of them fit right into the pop music formula (which is maybe why a lot of people forget about the band), but they’ve also held the test of time and fit into the better, early to mid 90’s pop formula than today’s Top 20 List. The songs that aren’t as popular are even kind of hard, in an angsty, punk influenced kind of way.
Frontman Art Alexakis is the key to Everclear. The band’s gone through an over overwhelming number of musician changes, and Alexakis, lead singer and lyricist for the group, is the only original member. Maybe it’s just postulation, but it seems like this time the band members might actually like each other. They didn’t just play for the audience’s benefit, but to each other and for fun, too. As good as a show as they all put on, however, most everyone’s attention was on Art. It’s evident he’s been at the whole frontman thing for as long as he has - he has excellent stage presence and knows exactly how to work the crowd, from the way he leans in and cranes his neck while singing, to the witty back and forth banter he has with himself in between songs. He also, of course, let the audience sing along to large chunks of the more popular songs while he held the microphone out above the crowd. The audience members near the stage grabbed at his legs, mouths moved in unison along to the music, and arms flew around wildly in the packed opera houses as the band delivered hit after hit.
At one point, the band started into Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll. Art passed the microphone through the audience near the stage to see who could first correctly sing along to the famous song. It took longer than it should have before someone was able to get the lyrics right. It was pretty clear that the eve-dedicated crowd was all about Everclear, and maybe not too familiar with even the most notable of classic rock greats. Later, during the encore, the band started into Lynard Synard’s Sweet Home Alabama. That was short lived, as Art stopped the band and said, “I’m not gonna play that racist song. How about an Everclear song? Will that shut you the fuck up?” They ended the night with two of their biggest hits, Everything to Everyone and I Will Buy You a New Life, a song, according to Art, about love, and not about money. Playing their own stuff seemed to work on the crowd. It did shut them up, at least until the ferocious cheer at the end of the encore.
Wednesday was a good night. It seemed like one that was going to be all about nostalgia and remembered high school class songs, but it was actually very in-the-moment fun with talented and dedicated musicians. As a final gesture to a great night, Art let everyone know that they could talk to him and get him to sign for them over at the merchandise booth, and he didn’t even expect them to buy anything. He said over and over that House of Blues Chicago was one of his favorite places to play, so chances are pretty likely that there will be future opportunities to see Art, and whoever else is in Everclear at the time, performing in the Windy City in the near future.