ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 4, 1996
By Steve Newton
I went to see the 9:15 showing of Dead Man Walking at the Park last Saturday night (March 30), and because of that I missed the 11:15 showing of Naked Man Running at the Commodore.
According to sources at the scene, the singer from opening act Triple Fast Action doffed his duds to scamper au naturel across the stage during fellow guests Hagfish’s set. Arriving too late for the burlesque portion of the night’s entertainment, I had to settle for a 75-minute set by Portland-based grunge-punks Everclear, which had its moments but won’t go down in my rock ’n’ roll history books.
The group took the stage at high midnight and started things off lightly with “Strawberry”, an elementary guitar-and-bass number that sounded as basic as the minimal stage setup—a plain white sheet with a big green star in the middle—looked.
After deftly handling a shakerlike percussion instrument on “Strawberry”, Greg Eklund took his place at the drum kit located directly in front of that star and the trio proceeded to lash out with the grating guitar-bass-drums noise it’s noted for. A lot of the songs sounded identical, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind that it was getting what resembled one endless grungy tune blasted into its face.
“Look at all you guys!” exclaimed singer-guitarist Art Alexakis to the masses. “This sure ain’t the Starfish Room, Toto,” he added, referring to the small Homer Street club the band played on its last trek through town. In recent months Everclear’s major-label debut, Sparkle and Fade, has become a fave disc among disaffected youth in search of the next Nirvana, and the group’s recent appearance on Saturday Night Live is testament to its visibility.
But apart from the incendiary “Heroin Girl”, not many selections from Sparkle—or its low-fi predecessor, World of Noise—had the same galvanizing impact as a cover of AC/DC’s “Sin City”, during which Alexakis paid homage to Angus Young by playing flat on his back.
The group left the stage after less than an hour, but came back for an extended encore that included the recent hit “Santa Monica”, a paean to the seaside city where Alexakis grew up. “We’re gonna do a little free-form jazz for ya,” he lied, and I for one wouldn’t have minded a slight stylistic break from the one-note routine. A tune titled “Sparkle” was given a nice visual touch courtesy of the Commodore’s mirror ball, and no doubt gave some of the young-looking patrons their first crystalline taste of that ’70s concert staple.
The group also won brownie points from me by closing with Tom Petty’s “American Girl”, one of the finest entries on last year’s You Got Lucky tribute album.