The Press

News and Info
News Archive
Concert Chronology
Everclear FAQ
Everclear Links
Song of the Moment
Winamp Skins
Concert Promos
The Press

Sno-Core at the Aragon Ballroom
Chicago Tribune, March 1, 1999

By Greg Kot

Everclear, the little band that could, came to the Aragon on Saturday determined not just to be better than on its previous swings through town, but bigger.

It was the band's way of celebrating a year of improbable success, and what's a party without excess, after all? But it was a tough night for the music, which sounded sloppy and cluttered in contrast to the band's earlier, buzz saw-precision appearances in Chicago clubs, particularly the more sonically friendly Metro.

On this night, the guitar-bass-drums trio doubled in size, adding a percussionist, keyboardist and guitarist - plus an array of arena lights that could have illuminated not only a Queen concert but a landing strip at O'Hare. From the synchronized leaps of the guitarists on the opening intrumental to the thundering-herd drumming of "Amphetamine," Everclear came to overpower and overwhelm. The energy was so high that singer Art Alexakis gave up tring to sing on key because he was too busy trying to outshout the band, his voice reduced to a hoarse wail.

"Heroin Girl" was exuberant, the crowd itching to sing along and Alexakis gladly obliging them by backing away from the microphone, but it was a mess - a case of too much adrenaline, not enough song.

Somewhere underneath all that testosterone, amplification and blinding flash were the instant recognition melodies that have made Everclear the most overachieving band of the late '90s. Last year, while countless rock bands got more record-industry and media attention - Pearl Jam, Hole, Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins - Everclear quietly released hit single after hit single, until its 1997 album, "So Much for the Afterglow," had passed 2 million in sales.

The current tour - the Sno-Core mini-festival with three other acts - marked the band's third major trek across the country in support of that release, and it was to Everclear's credit that it tried to up the ante. But the music worked best when Alexakis, bassist Craig Montoya and drummber Greg Eklund pared down the arrangements, beginning midset with an acoustic "Strawberry" and "Heartspark Dollarsign." Finally, Alexakis was able to sing in his natural baritone range, and the concise cannily structured melodies that make the singer as one of the decade's most dedicated purveyors of sugarsmack pop were brought to the surface.

Alexakis' post-grunge tunecraft and his metaphor-free lyrics about youth losing its bloom aren't the stuff of rock legend; they're merely the lifeblood of a down-to-earth touring band. Everclear dressed down like their fans, and delivered the expected anthems in the predictable places: "Santa Monica" as set-closer and "Father of Mine" as the first encore. They are songs of disillusionment, but the mood was festive, a reminder that nothing flushes out the blahs like a cranked up rock 'n' roll fist-waver - a maxim that modest little Everclear has embraced and taken all the way to the bank.

Nonetheless, the bill was pleasingly diverse, including turntable maestro DJ Spooky, rappers Black Eyed Peas and art-groovemeisters Soul Coughingm whose rap-singer M. Doughty is nerdy and proud of it. He turned hip-hop's showboating vocal style inward, as if delivering stream-of-consciousness interior monologues in a rhythmic mumble. "Is Chicago? Is not Chicago?" he muttered as drums clattered and cartoon characters skittered on a screen behindhim. Without emphasizing melodies, Soul Coughing made absurdly catchy music that built to rousing climaxes.

The three emcees in the Black Eyed Peas swapped rhymes over a five-piece band, avoiding most of the dreaded rap cliches while blending break-dancing routines with simmering funk and reggae syncopations.