|Everclear - Bristol, O2 Academy - 1st April 2013|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Friday, 12 April 2013 03:00|
Promoted as being located in the smaller Academy 2 in Bristol when this 20th anniversary tour from Everclear was first announced, I arrived at the venue before the doors had even opened. The Academy 2, you have to understand, is basically a corridor; a corridor which, more often than not, offers the paying punter a view of, not from, the bar.
So, to get myself a good vantage point to see a band that I have adored since the '90s I get there early, way early. So early in fact that upon happily learning that the show will be in the much larger (and cooler) main Academy room I suddenly realise that, for the first time in many a month, I am actually going to witness all the bands on a four band bill.
The three bands on the undercard tonight offer entertainment in various guises: Blame, the main tour support out of Uttoxeter, throw out an alt-tinged set that fuses a whole lot of genres and makes the band difficult to pigeonhole, the sign of true originality. A choice version of The Replacements' 'Bastards Of Young' may not, then, be the most original song to fling into a setlist but, as you should know, it is a song that sounds great anywhere, as it does here. The Headstart are a pop punk four-piece from Wakefield who charm with their between song banter and impress with their bouncy tunes that owe more than a debt of honour to New Found Glory. It's hard to watch them and not end up smiling, though it's also difficult to not think that they've missed the pop punk boat somewhat. The first band on, maybe surprisingly, are the ones that leave the biggest mark: The Vigil are a Bristol band who have been added to the show as local support but pretty much steal it from the two bands above them. They ply their trade in '90s-influenced (heavily and heavy) alt rock and, while there's a definite Nirvana vibe to some of the songs, I'm also left thinking of the fuzzy, retrofied sounds on the last Redd Kross album, 'Researching The Blues'. Ones to keep an eye out for...
With the stage set up in proper stadium rock/taped television performance style - keyboards on a riser stage right, drums likewise to their left - a large space is opened up in the middle of the stage behind the main mic, a space just about large enough to house a personality as big as Art Alexakis, and one that he paces around in during glorious opener 'So Much For The Afterglow'.
I'm sure to upset the purists, even if I kinda consider myself one, if I suggest that the departures of long-term members Craig Montoya and Greg Eklund mattered less than you would imagine two-thirds of a trio leaving ever would be. As long as there is Art Alexakis there is Everclear - it's that simple - and the band that he has surrounded himself with play the back catalogue with the sort of enthusiasm that makes you think that they were fans of the band before ever being members. Lead guitarist Davey French, now back in (ahem) the swing of things after a brief parting of company himself, is a perfect foil for Alexakis, throwing out killer fretwork and huge grins while the lyric-penning, song-writing genius to his right concentrates on giving us all hope while in the crosshairs of despair. Keyboard player Josh Crawley has had a similar yo-yo experience as an Everclear band member as French but, as he sits behind a couple of huge Rolands throwing out fantastic backing vocals when called upon, he seems like he simply belongs in the band. Drummer Sean Winchester, this line-up's newest member, is as solid yet loose as you would hope, while bass player Freddy Herrera (formerly with The Exies) has that star quality that glitters over just about everyone in the venue.
This tour is billed as a 20th anniversary run so, as hoped I guess, the set is a gem-littered greatest hits workout that barely dips out of the awesome. 'You Make Me Feel Like A Whore', from breakout album 'Sparkle and Fade', is followed quickly by a punchy 'Father Of Mine' before the place really erupts when that 'Heroin Girl' makes an appearance: it's a great start to the set and I couldn't really have hoped for better. With 'Heartspark Dollarsign' giving way to the motoring 'Amphetamine' we're six songs yet just two albums in.
That all changes quickly: with Winchester, Herrara and Crawley huddled around a mic stage front singing backing vocals, Alexakis and French dip into 'Song From An American Movie, Pt 1', before they all depart leaving just Art and his acoustic guitar. He's already told the crowd that after fifteen years away, and at the age of 51, he doesn't know when, if ever, he'll be back in the UK, and it is with that in mind that the crowd finds itself as one when he breaks then immediately mends a few hearts with 'Learning How To Smile', hitting emotions when they're down with a stunning solo stab at 'Strawberry'.
'AM Radio', 'Everything To Everyone', the massive 'Volvo Driving Soccer Mom' and the aptly-titled 'Wonderful' lead up to set closer 'Santa Monica', the timeless tune that evokes possibly the biggest singalong of the night.
'Local God', from the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, is dusted off for these UK shows purely because a fan told Art on Twitter that the song is big on these shores, its encore appearance blurring into 'Be Careful What You Ask For', the only song played from the band's latest album, 'Invisible Stars', happily afforded a long-overdue British release to coincide with this tour.
As the show ends with a euphoric 'I Will Buy You New Life' I'm left with the spoken rather than sung words of Art Alexakis ringing my ears and stinging my eyes. Struggling to finish his solo run-through of 'Learning How To Smile' Art apologises to the crowd for, no matter how many times he's sung them, still getting affected by these songs. Every person in the room who has ever used these songs and lyrics to help them when falling in, and out, of love nods in agreement, choking back a tear or two also, I suspect.
If this is the last time that the UK is graced by Everclear then it cannot complain about not being given the ultimate send off. A contender for gig, and tour, of the year, easily.