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Monday, December 1, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Everclear, Electric And Acoustic, Shows Sparkle, No Fade

Special To The Seattle Times

Concert review Everclear with Our Lady Peace and Letters to Cleo, at RKCNDY, Saturday.

Everclear frontman Art Alexakis surveyed the steaming cauldron of too many arms, legs and heads that was the RKCNDY audience and declared: "The last time we were here we played to like 25 people."

"No," countered bassist Craig Montoya, "more like 22."

That was two years ago, when it seemed like Everclear played Seattle every other week end. Since then, however, their 1995 release "Sparkle and Fade" has sold over 3 million copies, they've had hit singles, appeared on Letterman's show and played sold-out shows at The End Fest and Mercer Arena.

Alexakis also played Seattle's Velvet Elvis Lounge and the Crocodile Cafe earlier this year. He did semi-solo acoustic sets and they were among the best live shows he's played here.

That experience wasn't lost on the band Saturday. Not only did Everclear play a blistering, albeit too short, collection of punched-up pop songs from the new release "So Much For The Afterglow," "Sparkle and Fade" and the earlier "World of Noise," the band did a three song sit-down acoustic interlude, something a few of the crowd took issue with.

"James Taylor?" Alexakis shot back at an accusatory audience member. "You got a problem with that? You weren't even born when James Taylor came out!" Alexakis then eased through "Strawberry," "Heartspark Dollarsign" and "My Sexual Life," songs, respectively, about addiction, interracial relations and coming-of-age in a small town. He introduced the latter by saying they hadn't played it on the last tour and fans had been giving him grief.

"You've all been whining ever since," Alexakis said with a grin. "So being the spineless jellyfish that we are, we're doing it." Although it's told from a male perspective, it takes into account a young girl's wants and needs, true and false, something not often acknowledged in male alt rock. But that is what sets Alexakis' songs apart. They're defiant and often drawn from the darker side of life's experiences - especially his own - but there's a fairness to them. Alexakis is as compassionate as he is angry.

The rest of the set, which started late because middle act Our Lady Peace was a half-hour behind, roared with guttural primal energy. Everclear, which included drummer Greg Eklund and new guitarist Steve Birch, kicked off with the title track from the new release. That led immediately to the older "Electra Made Me Blind."

The stage diving had begun with the first note and the band was two-thirds through the second number when Alexakis stopped the song dead. Surely still mindful of the stage diving incident that took place at their Boston show last month, when three uninvited members of the New England Patriots dived from the stage and injured one woman so badly she had to have surgery, he would have none of it.

"If you stage dive, they'll shut us down," he glowered. "Now do you want to listen to music, or do you want to stage dive?" The near-unanimous decision was for music. Other than some occasionally aggressive moshing, no one else violated the stage.

Everclear rewarded the horde with "Father of Mine," "The Twistinside" and "Santa Monica," which has gained serious sing-along status, both verse and chorus. The set closing "Heroin Girl," done at Indi 500 speed, rigorously rocked the RK. The band then violated the 11 p.m. cutoff by doing two more songs.

Everclear left a warm and decidedly sweaty afterglow.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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