It’s been 14 years, five studio albums and one hiatus since Art Alexakis last brought Everclear to these shores. Hell, fans of the band have been born and grown old enough to get into tonight’s show in that time. However, for those who remember the days of ‘Local God’ or the seminal So Much For The Afterglow, that isn’t what matters. Everclear literally aren’t the same band, Greg Eklund and Craig Montoya having left three years before the 2006 break. We all know they’re not ours to own – creatively, they should be free as the birds, man. Yet, for those wanting to revisit the good times, there’s still the old fan dilemma: When is a band really Your Band?
The pair of local supports are arguably classic in their own right. Young Urban Professionals warm-up with a slowburn AC/DC-cum-Audioslave vibe, meanwhile Blame come much more from the balladic side of Wildhearts-tinged pub rock. Decent enough fare, but nothing that quite detracts from the fact that tonight’s the first time many will hear ‘Local God’ live.
On the Academy 2’s tiny stage, Everclear meet a hero’s welcome with a determination to make up for lost time. Long-time fans, first time gig-goers could be forgiven for being confused. There are photo lines and gregarious signings both before and after the show. Yet, while the rest of the band are bouncing with enthusiasm from the word go, frontman Art Alexakis takes a little onstage time to warm to the crowd. Nerves would be understandable. Long absence aside, this year marks Everclear’s 20th anniversary, adding an extra dimensions to putting this tour together. Mind, aside from the absence of the boisterous second volume of Songs From An American Movie, there’s little to complain about from the setlist. Even if they only gave us a little ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ before ‘Volvo Driving Soccer Mom’.
The Academy 2 has never had the best or most subtle sound, but that comes to matter less as the night goes on. Everclear’s raw matter is pop rock – the same rich vein Jimmy Eat World, Beach Boys and The Beatles mined. Tonight’s set shows that seam still holds gold; ‘So Much For The Afterglow’ the shining surfing set opener, while ‘Amphetamine’ begs a much more boisterous pit than this. You will never really hear ‘Strawberry’ ‘til it’s backed by 300 folks singing along with the chorus – or maybe a few thousand. Ultimately, it’s the crowd that make this tonight, taking back the songs they’ve been singing along to in their bedrooms for the last decade and a half – and these are the times we really see Alexakis light up, get into his stride and start really riffing off his cohorts. Watching, it’s hard not to think what would have happened, if only they hadn’t taken so long to get back – but then, this is timeless stuff, and… Wait, Art Alexakis is 50? Seriously? Can herbal tea really do that?
The only regret, if there is one, is that Everclear really need a festival stage. This music’s always been the sound of endless Summer nostalgia. Here’s hoping that doesn’t take another fourteen years. But that still leaves us with that question to answer. When is a band really Your Band? Sometimes, it’s when they stop just being their own.
Photos taken by Ruth Booth.