Art Alexakis looks great for age 53. The Everclear singer, who is on tour with a new band to honor the 20th anniversary of his landmark album Sparkle and Fade, has stayed fit and allowed his bleach-addled hair to fade from blonde to a distinguished gray, and grown a goatee to match.
Unfortunately, based on last nights show at Wonder Ballroom, Alexakis' voice hasn't held up as well. Maybe it's been a long tour, or maybe his vocal chords have grown rigid with age, but Art couldn't snap off the high notes that made his twangy rasp the foil for so much teen angst. Even with his current backing band seemingly down-tuned, he couldn't get it into the right gear.
For much of the 90-minute show, which featured Alexakis shrugging off the customary encore break that would've followed Sparkle and Fade's closer, "My Sexual Life," it wasn't clear that he was even trying.
But, on "Summerland," the track which gives the album its title, he reached up, grasping for the hard, high "F" on "fall, glimmer, sparkle and fade." If there was a time to sell-out and deliver what the people remembered, this was it. Alexakis found no purchase, slipping, defeated, back down into the murk.
The sold-out crowd hardly cared. Throughout, they carried Alexakis and his four-piece band through loud sing-alongs of Sparkle, along with "Father of Mine," "Wonderful" and a few hits from other albums.
Banter-wise, Alexakis was as advertised. He made mention of local newspaper reports ("This is fucking awesome! It sucks because if you read the paper it says no body likes me in Portland") offered an extended commentary on his own dumbness ("ask my three ex-wives") and dedicated a song to someone who thought they were writing about someone else but was actually writing about himself. He also chided the crew, asking for the lights to come up quicker and then repeating the request with emphasis ("Bring the lights up quiiiiiiiiiiiiicker. Thanks, guys!").
The band itself was good, though some songs were muddled with two or three guitar parts playing on tracks meant for only one. It was especially unfortunate on "Fire Maple Song," where Alexakis and his lead guitarist, a sort of Wal-Mart Richie Sambora, stepped all over each other, ruining the chord progressions.
Which brings us to the biggest missed opportunity.
While this tour could've been an occasion to reunite the band's classic lineup and reap the goodwill of a warm reconciliation, it's instead been another chance for Alexakis to repeat the now-familiar chorus that he is Everclear, and the two other guys whose childhood photos adorn the cover of the record he's playing were simply in the right place at the right time. That's what he told The Oregonian—a refrain I heard repeated, with citation, from a friend in the crowd. "Art is the band, you know," he said. "Those other guys were just some guys."
Maybe that's true. Maybe Art is Everclear. Maybe, without Art, there is no Everclear, and if Art is there, it's Everclear.
If so, why doesn't Art just play guitar and hire a new singer, someone who can hit the high notes?