Sunday, March 11, 2001

Everclear overshadows tepid matchbox twenty

By Jay Webber
Enquirer contributor

        If not for a “special guest,” matchbox twenty's performance Thursday at the Firstar Center may have been a qualified success.

        A solid if unspectacular modern rock band benefiting from a generally dubious era for pop music, matchbox twenty has in short time produced an impressive string of hit singles.

        Thursday night's 100-minute performance, capped by a fantastic light show, drew from each of those hits, from older favorites “3AM” and “Push” to “Bent” and “If You're Gone”.

        Unfortunately, those hits usually bookended slower tempo or lesser-known efforts that did not captivate the audience. The effect was an uneven show that simply seemed too long, particularly after failing to approach the energy of “special guest” Everclear.

        Why is Everclear still touring as a warm-up act? This band has evolved from powerful punk to polished rock and pop, all the while producing five diverse and captivating CDs. The fan base and the material are there to justify top billing, yet they persist as underdogs.

        Thursday night, the trio from Oregon — augmented live by an additional guitarist, percussionist and keyboardist — ripped through an ear-ringing, pulse-quickening 45-minute set. Where matchbox twenty seemed sterile and motionless, Everclear was raw and energized. Lead singer Art Alexakis ran, spun and jumped about repeatedly. Craig Montoya didn't so much play his bass as attack it, while drummer Greg Eklund, the band's musical glue, maintained a frenetic pace.

        The result of their efforts were good new takes on recent hits, including a surprisingly hard-edged “AM Radio” and a full-throttle “Rock Star” backed by several fans invited to dance onstage.

        For all their power the Everclear hallmark remains deeply moving lyrics. The band took the stage to “Song From an American Movie,” a beautiful ode to Mr. Alexakis' daughter, delivered the emotional “I Will Buy You a New Life,” “Father of Mine” and “Wonderful” and closed with the irresistible “Santa Monica.”

        That most memorable conclusion raises this question, though: How many more acts will be upstaged before Everclear is forced to headline a large venue?


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