It was another cool and clear night in Orange County, but there was something in the air that made it feel like something great was about to happen. You know, like when you’re a kid and you know Christmas is right around the corner. This night our present was about to be delivered by Art Alexakis and Everclear.
The venue was the City National Grove of Anaheim, the date was November 18, 2021, and the mood was magical. The night started off with the sight and sounds of Wheatus.
Truthfully, I had never seen Wheatus before, but I remember them for their quirky songs from back in the day. I didn’t know what to expect; lucky for me, I was very pleasantly surprised.
These New Yorkers brought their humor and quasi-rock gods alter ego and that alone was entertaining. Immediately I got the sense of who they reminded me of: If Silverchair and the Tom Tom Club ever had a baby, it would be Wheatus.
Lead singer and guitarist Brendan B. Brown was engaging and shared entertaining banter with bassist Matthew Milligan, who by the way, can play a mean bass. I loved the line from Brown, “This song was released in four countries, just not this country,” and it drew a roar and laughter from the crowd, and it set the tone for the set. As mentioned, this band reminded me of another incredible band, the Tom Tom Club (Talking Heads support). That was because of the incredible and dynamic backing vocals from Karlie Bruce and Gabrielle Aimée Sterbenz.
The crowd was enthralled when they belted out a cover of AC/DC’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation.” Then Wheatus played that song I told you about from back in the day, “Teenage Dirtbag.” It sounded electric and with vocals that made the near capacity crowd cheer even louder.
As much as they enjoyed Wheatus, the crowd was ready for the main event. As the lights dimmed, the familiar voice came over the speakers. Art Alexakis welcomed everyone and said he felt nostalgic being back home. He said, “I hope you don’t mind if we play some familiar songs?” The crowd ate that up and Everclear opened with “So Much for the Afterglow.”
A few years ago, I interviewed Alexakis and mentioned to him that one of my favorite Everclear songs was “Songs from an American Movie.” I remember his pause when I said that, and then he said, “Yeah, that one is special to me. I wrote it for my daughter and whenever I sing it, it makes me feel good.” Needless to say, when guitarist Dave French strummed the chords to the song, I knew it going to be a special night. The song was so heartfelt and I saw grown men and women in tears as they sang along. Maybe it was the song that did it, or maybe it was the Alexakis explanation just before it when he said, “Being a parent can be the greatest feeling on Earth as well as the hardest thing on Earth.”
The band was tight, energetic, and beyond electric. They toured most of the summer and fall as part of their Summerland Tour, so you would think they would be tired, but nope. There was just something in the air that night that gave the band an enthusiastic and magnetic energy that drew the crowd deeper and deeper into their performance. For those not in the know, Everclear is fronted be vocalist/guitarist Art Alexakis, Dave French on guitar, Freddy Herrera on bass and Brian Nolan the skins, and they brought their “A” game.
Aside dedications to his daughter, Alexakis mentioned on more than one occasion how much he loved being back home in California. He told the story about how his mom was from North Carolina and brought the family to California. When she retired a few years ago, she went back to North Carolina, but the move didn’t stick. She came back home and Alexakis explained that his mama said, “California is my home now.” That drew the loudest cheer of all from the crowd. You felt the sincerity in his voice when he spoke about his mother and especially when he mentioned she passed a little while back.
What an emotional night! The band was on fire! They even did a guitar solo thing where each band member did a little something, but it was French who brought the house down with his take on Van Halen’s “Eruption.” The also paid tribute to some of our sonic heroes by busting out a few tunes everyone knew including songs from Judas Priest, Scorpions and Led Zeppelin.
Another moment everyone loved was when the road crew brought out a birthday cake for Freddy Herrera. Everyone in the joint joined in a birthday sing-a-long.
Throughout the set, the songs we all grew up listening to sounded refreshed. Songs like “Father of Mine,” “I Will Buy You a New Life,” “AM Radio,” “Wonderful,” “Everything to Everyone,” “Heroin Girl,” and “Sunflowers” were just some of the fan favorites. As the night drew to an end, Alexakis thanked the crowd for coming out and said, “Let’s go back to the beach!” The chorus we all knew began, and everyone sang to every word of the song… “I am still living with your ghost, lonely and dreaming of the west coast, I don’t wanna be your downtime, I don’t wanna be your stupid game.” These of course are the lyrics to their mega-hit “Santa Monica.” Everclear brought the house down and they said, “Goodnight!” closing out this amazing show.
This was a great night for music in the OC. For Everclear fans, the band and Alexakis in particular were in rare form; a true depiction of life, love, and overcoming obstacles. It was a good night to enjoy the human experience.