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Twenty minutes after Friday's Everclear performance had ended, all the seats in the Wolf Den were empty and only a few pieces of the drum kit remained to be packed away. But front man Art Alexakis was still holding court in front of the stage, greeting every last member of the audience. At 51, his voice may not reach some of the high notes, but Alexakis seemed to enjoy every minute of his show, including those after the music had stopped.
Like many of the nostalgia acts that come through the casinos, the band is several iterations removed from the original lineup that made them multi-platinum stars of early '90s alt-rock. At this point, some of these groups can seem like little more than a vehicle for the lead singer, but the opposite was true of Everclear.
Alexakis often seemed content to step back and let his bandmates share the spotlight, whether it was Josh Crawley's keyboards and backing vocals on "Wonderful," Dave French's guitar solo leading into "I Will Buy You a New Life," or the harmonies provided by French, Crawley and bassist Freddy Herrera on "Santa Monica." Alexakis' grinning, laid-back approach quickly quashed any temptation to think of the band as Art and Those Other Guys, and many of the songs were better for it.
Opening with "So Much for the Afterglow" and "Father of Mine," the band sounded like they may have been holding back, trying to scale an arena-worthy sound down to the smaller stage of the Wolf Den. Alexakis, whose vocals sometimes sounded a bit strained, remarked that "they wouldn't let us turn it up" in comparison to the band's previous appearance in the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Everclear sounded best on more energetic songs like "Heroin Girl" and "Amphetamine," where the emphasis was on hard-rock instrumentation rather than Alexakis' singing. In fact, he was at his vocal best during two songs he didn't write: a solo acoustic version of"Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl" and an arrangement of The Rolling Stones' "Far Away Eyes" wherein all five band members harmonized around a single microphone.
In the middle of the encore, Alexakis announced, "If you're playing in a rock band and you're not having a good time, you'd better find another job."
The smiles on all five members' faces, whether playing classic rock riffs or bantering with the crowd between songs, revealed that they are all in the right line of work.
When the last encore tune was over, Alexakis went directly to the front of the stage, at first kneeling, then sitting and finally descending to the floor to mingle with the crowd. He engaged in conversations with dozens of audience members, posing for photograph after photograph while listening intently as fans reminisced about such things as, decades ago, sneaking underage into Everclear shows. After accommodating every handshake, embrace and autograph request, he looked a bit reluctant to leave as he was led backstage off the empty floor.