Two of the 90’s best and overlooked American Classic Rock bands prove they have more than enough to double headline an intimate club show in Leeds.
This is a new venue for me and the wrong side of Leeds from where I’m travelling from, may as well be Bradford, but the Old Woollen is one of those classic independent venues that really need your support in these difficult times.
Great, but not suprising, to see it packed out early doors as tonight we receive the welcome return of two of the most overlooked bands of that American Rock 90’s era – Everclear and Soul Asylum battled it out with the Grunge wave from Seattle and mostly lost the war, save for a few hit singles, mainly in the states. Most casual music fans in the UK would easily name ‘Runaway Train’ as the highlight of Soul Asylum’s back catalogue (of some 12 studio albums since the 80’s) but they are so much more than that, similarly Everclear have a niche following here, which is largely why neither band have made an appearance on these shores for well over 10 years.
Everclear kicked off the night with ‘So Much for the Afterglow’ with immense energy, plenty of jumping around and foot on the monitor poses. Singer and founding member Art Alexakis asks “Anyone here a real old school Everclear fan?” before dedicating ‘Heroin Girl’ to them. They proceed to chalk off a series of classic tunes from all their albums. Pausing briefly to tease the audience into requests – which they were never going to play “Don’t expect me to remember every song we wrote” Alexakis jokes before running more banter around having kids who you love but hate them at the same time. ‘Wonderful’ dedicated to his daughter dutily followed. After an audience shoutathon for ‘AM Radio’ Alexakis gets a little more serious explaining his ongoing battle with MS, it doesn’t last long as a ferocious ‘Nervous & Weird’ and ‘Santa Monica’ close the show with guitarists offering their guitars out for anyone to strum them before leaving this small stage and heading to the bar to watch Soul Asylum.
It isn’t long before Dave Pirner & Co are on and launching into new song ‘Got It Pretty Good’ from their latest album ‘Hurry Up and Wait’ released just before the pandemic. There is no space down the front as many of the Everclear fans just stayed there for the duration. That opening riff from ‘Somebody to Shove’ sparked some mass movement and signalled it was time to really get those old bones dancing to anything from ‘The Grave Dancers Union’ album, for which they would pull 6 tracks from. It isn’t long before Pirner is saying “Awww Shucks” after every song as the crowd here really got behind the band, however, I don’t think we were quite ready for the barrage of Dad jokes he would give us in-between the classic tracks – this one is an example. “There were two antennae that decided to get married, the wedding was awful but the reception was incredible”, ending with a drum roll and the audience groaning and then launching into ‘Bittersweetheart’ with a sly smile on his face. This continued throughout the set.
‘Black Gold’ sounded superb and probably received a better reaction than the grammy award winning ‘Runaway Train’ which was largely downplayed as an acoustic break in the relentless energetic rocking performance. ‘Just like Anyone’ closed the set and then they came back with ‘String of Pearls’ and a rare cover of MC5’s ‘Looking at You’ before closing with the heavy riffs of ‘April Fool’.
Now in his late 50’s Pirner can still move with the best of them, his voice a little more gravelly than on record, but that just adds to the slightly ravaged look with his hair still looking untamed and wild, he has a superb band around him and I’m hoping this tour will be a springboard to a rejuvenated Soul Asylum that won’t take another 20 years before coming back to the UK.
Words and Photos by John Hayhurst
Everclear Setlist: So Much for the Afterglow, Everything to Everyone, Heroin Girl, Heartspark Dollarsign, Father of Mine, Summerland, Amphetamine, Wonderful, Song From an American Movie Pt. 1, Strawberry, AM Radio, I Will Buy You a New Life, Nervous & Weird, Santa Monica.
Soul Asylum Setlist: Got It Pretty Good, Somebody to Shove, Bittersweetheart, If I Told You, Close, Black Gold, By the Way, Misery/Silly Love Songs, Little Too Clean, Made to be Broken, Hopped Up Feelin’, Good For You, Never Really Been, Runaway Train, Without a Trace, Lately, Veil of Tears, Just Like Anyone. ENCORE: String of Pearls, Looking at You, April Fool.