“I’m re-living my high school years,” was a common refrain overhead by those in attendance at the Summerland tour on Friday night at Billy Bob’s. Everclear’s annual tour celebrates the 90’s, even if most the bands they have in-tow never stopped making music. Indeed, each of the support bands have released new music in the last few years, including New York’s Wheatus, California’s Hoobastank, and the always incredibly Living Colour (whose first album came out in the 80’s). Of course, headliner Everclear released their most recent album, Black is the New Black, in 2015. Nevertheless, those on hand wanted to hear those 90’s hits and they didn’t leave disappointed.
The show started at 7pm with Wheatus, followed by Hoobastank. It may have been a tad early for a Friday night as the small gaggle of fans assembled for these two bands were clearly their die-hards. The casual fan there for the tour package seemed to be missing. Both band delivered solid sets that got the evening rolling and the crowd loosened up. Of course, the layout at Billy Bob’s is strange. If you hadn’t been to the “World’s Largest Honky Tonk” in a few years, you were likely disappointed to learn that the $25 general admission tickets would get you nowhere near the stage, rather you were relegated to the sides of the “pit” area nearest the bars with obstructed views. Indeed, the 100,000 square feet of interior space (largely encompassing bars, a “restaurant,” a gift shop, pool tables, etc) makes for a cavernous experience. If you dropped $60 for “pit” tickets, at least you could see the performers faces. Even behind the “pit” were rows of mostly empty tables reserved for the premium ticket buyer. It seems like the venue puts the audience experience secondary to Billy Bob’s branded merchandise and the general tourist experience the venue offers.
When Living Colour took the stage, the “pit” area filled up nicely. Of course, some of the cowboy’s working the pit entrances had received orders to let everyone in the pit, while others had not. But, Living Colour had a nice crowd for their performance that spanned their first three records. Strong sing-alongs to “Open Letter (To A Landlord) and “Love Rears Its Ugly Head” were obvious signs that the crowd were enjoying themselves. But, when the opening riff to “Cult of Personality” hit, they erupted. Guitarist Vernon Reid, vocalist Corey Glover, and bassist Doug Wimbish all had smiles on their faces as they closed out the set. You couldn’t see his face behind the kit, but I’m sure Will Calhoun was happy, too. The only disappointment was that they didn’t play a longer set.
Going on at 10:00, Everclear had a packed house for their performance. More than half of their set consisted of songs from their 90’s albums, Sparkle and Fade and So Much for the Afterglow, along with “Fire Maple Song” from their 1993 debut, World of Noise, and “Local God” from the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack. The entire band played to the crowd, requesting clap-alongs and sing-alongs throughout their set. Frontman Art Alexakis beamed throughout the show, certainly relishing the response from the adoring crowd. And the crowd certainly delivered as strong as the band. The joy felt throughout the “pit” area at Billy Bob’s was palatable. Everclear is an incredibly tight band. Each musician was sharp and Alexakis’ voice was strong and full in the live mix. You might categorize them as a “90’s band,” but in the present moment, they bring it just as hard as bands decades their junior. Their mostly three and a half minute long songs, driven by loud guitars, walloping drums, and infectious melodies are the epitome of crowd pleasing.
– J. Kevin Lynch