Here at Music Closeup we always aim to be unbiased but – full disclosure – Everclear is my favourite band and has been for 25 years. This wasn’t always straightforward in the UK. No one knew who I was talking about unless they had the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack or one of my mixtapes. I spent countless hours digging through Our Price bargain bins and secondhand record shops for U.S. smash-hit singles that barely scraped the UK Top 40. I stayed up far too late watching MTV (when it still played music) hoping to see a video while scouring the ‘World Wide Web’ for demos, rarities, and a Christmas GAP advert.
However, seeing Everclear live in the UK seemed impossible. I found out about their 1998 shows with Feeder a week too late. Then the 2001 tour was cancelled; I still have my tickets. It was 12 years before they made it back here, and that was 10 years ago.
This fuelled my ‘there might never be another chance’ attitude to seeing them in North America. That’s how I convinced myself that Fresno was a perfectly reasonable day trip from San Francisco, and that Toronto was close enough to Atlanta, Chicago and Detroit because what’s a few thousand miles on a Greyhound bus if it might be the last opportunity? Not always with the most solid plans, in hindsight, so many thanks to Everclear frontman Art Alexakis for driving me to the bus station when my British concept of ‘it’s really not very far’ didn’t translate well to the reality of a 20-year-old girl walking through downtown Detroit at midnight.
So, decades later, having the chance to photograph Everclear live in the UK and only 90 minutes from home seemed too good to be true until the music started at The Cluny in Newcastle. Getting to do it all again the next night in Glasgow with an all access pass was unbelievable. Backstage held no allure to this photographer when the chance to get extra shots while the light was perfect and a deep cut was playing meant everything.
During the intermission in Newcastle, we overheard one eager punter declare “as long as they get the good sound engineer then there’s nothing wrong.” They must have thought the ‘good engineer’ went home early because the sound went from practically perfect for support band Dubinski to an overwhelming wall of noise; specifically drums. VERY loud drums.
Luckily, we have a sound engineer on staff here at Music Closeup who explained that it was due to solely using pedalboards rather than amps. Something about no air moving, and being designed for larger venues and best suited for people standing at the back. I was thoroughly confused by this point – why would I choose to stand at the back? The people and photo opportunities are at the front! It was not the time to change the habits of a lifetime so we stayed where we were, enjoyed the show – the grungy tracks from 1993’s World of Noise sounded f-ing awesome in this environment – and got ready to do it all again the next night.
Sharing a similar setlist with the Newcastle gig but benefitting from a more balanced sound mix at a larger venue, and certainly better lighting, we’ll focus on the Glasgow show here.
Everclear live in the UK at The Classic Grand, Glasgow on November 20, 2022: “Anyone remember the 90s?”
The set opened with the same Beach Boys-style acapella sample that opened the song So Much For The Afterglow and the 1997 album of the same name. The place erupted. Given that the record only reached number 63 here, it was a pretty good sign that it was a room of dedicated Everclear fans rather than 90s soundtrack aficionados (shout out to the Romeo + Juliet and Scream 2 OST lovers out there, of course).
The album propelled them into the mainstream in the United States – it went two times platinum – so it’s no surprise that it features heavily in the first section of the show. We get singles like Everything To Everyone and Father Of Mine, album cuts like White Men In Black Suits and, delightfully, my favourite song Amphetamine. I’m not alone in that if the roar of the crowd was anything to go by!
Having sought these records out rather than having them served up on heavy rotation like in the States, the UK crowd responded to tracks from the grittier 1995 record Sparkle and Fade with equal fervour. The rapturous reaction to Heroin Girl was later repeated for Heartspark Dollarsign and Strawberry, definitively disproving Alexakis’ assumption at the Newcastle show that “there’s [only] ten of you that know this album.”
Anyone who did like that album would be well served by stepping back a few years to World of Noise. It’s now available as a 30th anniversary remastered edition with bonus remastered versions of most of the songs from the 1994 EP White Trash Hell. Some of us had to do a lot of paper rounds to pay for imports of those records so trust me when I say it’s good deal!
Sonically, live, the band has stripped back the pop-rock production of the major label years and returned to the rawer sound of those early years. Even the Mr Big Stuff sample that usually opens A.M. Radio was replaced with a downtuned riff. Even the only more recent track (2015 counts as recent when you subtract the lockdown years), The Man Who Broke His Own Heart, was on the heavier side.
This clearly suited the current incarnation of the band with Freddy Herrera on bass and Davey French on guitar throwing shapes and jumping in unison at every chance they got, while Brian Nolan of American Hi-Fi (who supported Everclear when I first saw them live 21 years ago) pounded the drums with all his might.
Since they all seem up for raiding the archives and turning up the distortion, might these be the guys to finally give us the long-rumoured remake of Alexakis’ previous band, Colorfinger? Just putting it out there that there are some mighty Easy Hoes and Shakin’ Braves songs that deserve to see the light of day too…
As this was the 30th-anniversary Everclear tour, we were treated to two songs from the debut; Nervous and Weird and Loser Makes Good. Alexakis made the point that he used to dedicate the latter song to politicians he didn’t like. Now he dedicates it to himself.
He was 28 when he wrote that song. He’s 60 now. In that time, he explained, “I bought about two or three houses. I got married two or three times” and had two daughters that “make me fucking insane but I love them more than life itself.”
Addiction, trauma, bereavement, 33 years of sobriety and six years of multiple sclerosis have left their marks too. These experiences pervade his semi-autobiographical lyrics to the extent that even casual fans must be relieved to see that he’s back on tour and still finding joy in playing guitar for a living with friends. The support and good humour that they shared shone through all night.
Alexakis’ troubled childhood and youth is – hopefully – not directly relatable to the majority of his fans, but the greater human truths he captures are. You could see it in their smiles as he tenderly sang “the only thing that ever made sense in my life is the sound of my little girl laughing” in Songs From An American Movie Pt. 1.
There was also recognition of the powerful childlike innocence and sadness as a former child of a broken home sang “promises mean everything when you’re little and the world’s so big/I just don’t understand how you can smile with all those tears in your eyes.”
The band rattled through so many of the alt-rock standards of the 1990s – even Local God from Romeo + Juliet made an appearance! A canny choice, because that soundtrack really was popular back in the day when people still bought records – it hit number 3 in the UK album charts.
Finally, it was time for the song that, in many ways, started it all; the breakthrough U.S. radio hit, Santa Monica. Mass joy was palpable as soon as the distinctive opening riff with rhythmic muted strums began. Alexakis was right: “After all the fucking shit of the last 3 years, doesn’t it feel good to hear rock and roll?” Here was Everclear at their most recognisable and anthemic. Three power chords and the truth.
The show ended with a cover of Molly’s Lips. Though popularised by Nirvana, the original was by Glasgow band The Vaselines. Herrera stepped up to the mic for lead vocal duties to deliver this tribute to the local band. Alexakis on backing vocals jokingly sang ‘Freddy’s lips,’ giving one final indication of the wisecracking affection between the men on stage still getting to live their dreams despite it all. And, for one more song, this photographer got to live her teenage dream too. Thank you.
Dubinski: “Hope you had a class night!”
The Dubinski lads had quite a week. It started with the release of their self-titled debut album and finished up with a sweet support slot. While the headliners are all about the 1990s U.S. college rock sound that they helped to pioneer, this quartet of brothers trend towards the 2000s. At least on record, anyway, which suggests influences of Franz Ferdinand, The Kooks, and latter-day Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Live, however, they’re the closest things you’re likely to get to seeing Dr Feelgood and Eddie and The Hotrods all smashed up into one band. Angular dual guitars evocative of Television took up residence in the room. Meanwhile, each member of Dubinski had a distinct stage presence and seemed determined to take their ‘warm the crowd up’ remit seriously.
Understandably, after 30 years on the road, the headliner’s stage patter centred on how we’ve all got old. Well, spare a thought for your childhood friend, Rupert The Bear. He’s bleached his hair, grown a beard, goes by Donal now, and spent large parts of the show jumping around and writhing on the floor. Quite a sight to see! It wasn’t all about show, though. Far from it. Donal served us a delightfully dirty bassline during Fall Right Into The Grave.
Even the ballad Beyond Me “about love and stuff” was energetic in its live incarnation. Still, it was certainly a palate cleanser compared to the bombastic, frenetic track Hole In The Head. Frontman Eugene Gaine had enough charisma to get away with intentionally obnoxious lyrics like “we never liked you/we never wanted to be friends” and “go play in traffic/now you’re dead.” Never overshadowed by his gymnastic brother on bass, he simultaneously shared and owned the stage. He even, somehow, made pinstripe work trousers look good.
Meanwhile, Fergal Gaine, the dapper Carnaby Street gent on guitar, kept his cool throughout with delectable guitar work. Soothsayer was notable for being gritty as hell.
All the while, yer man on drums, Eoin Gaine, kept his brothers on track and led them into a particularly powerful performance of Bad Talking Sister.
Now back over the border in their adopted homeland of Scotland, the Yorkshire brothers already had a layer of fans who were having the time of their lives. Don’t be surprised if it’s not long before you’re up there in the front rows with them.
Dubinski’s new album, Dubinski, is out “on Spotify and that” now.