Nineties Rock Frontmen Strum Nostalgia with ‘Songs & Stories’ [REVIEW]
What do you get when you combine four powerhouse lead singers from some notable nineties alt-rock bands, two decades later? The awesomeness known as the “Songs & Stories” tour. Everclear’s frontman Art Alexakis wrangled up three of his music buddies from yesteryear (Max Collins, Chris Collingwood, John Wozniak) to put on a 2-plus hour acoustic show peppered with stories, song origins, cover songs, and even a Q&A session afterwards.
(Think VH1 Storytellers, but stuffed with the kind of extended banter you want to hear at a show.)
We caught the Boston show ahead of tonight’s New York performance, and are here to tell you that if your formative years were spent wiping smudge marks from your favorite Everclear, Eve 6, Fountains of Wayne, or Marcy Playground CDs, cancel your plans and find a way into the Gramercy Theater tonight.
The format was unique and quite enjoyable – the foursome kicked off the show with a cover of Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction.” Then each artist took a turn on stage solo to perform a handful of songs, which was then followed by another group cover. They wrapped up the show with a homey “everybody sings a verse” rendition of The Band’s “The Weight.” Classic.
Whether or not the same banter travels from city to city during the tour, it didn’t come across as contrived. That being said, we won’t divulge it all. But some highlights, in no particular order:
- John Wozniak from Marcy Playground delved into the origins of “The Vampires of New York” – back in 1995, Wozniak was trapped in a bus, which idled for a long time behind a parked garbage truck on the Bowery. Everyone then exited the bus and walked around, and Wozniak was quick to quip, “in 1995 the Bowery was not a good place to walk around.” Also, Wozniak’s voice is as good as it’s ever been.
- Lead singer of Eve 6, Max Collins, was really upbeat and self depreciating in a witty way. It was cool to listen to his stories about youthful milestones (first car with Sparkle and Fade in the tape desk, writing songs during high school English). His best bit was when he had one last song to play and he said, “You know what song is coming. I’m not going to pull any punches. I’m not Thom Yorke or anything.” He then went into “Inside Out.”
- Chris Collingwood of Fountains of Wayne killed it with his dry humor and spot-on vocals. The acoustic version of “Valley Winter Song” conjured visions of late night college dorm room hang outs. He brought the rest of the gang back out to sing along to “Radiation Vibes” – the harmonies were excellent. And then Collingwood unleashed “Stacey’s Mom,” and the crowd responded by belting it out with him, and a dancing Wozniak onstage.
- Art Alexakis took his portion of the show a bit more seriously than the others. He was his typically salty self on stage – someone laughed at a glitch in his set, and he replied, “Really? Where’s your song, bitch? Shut the fuck up and enjoy the show!” This, coupled with the more serious life stuff that his songs deal with (divorce, abandonment, drug abuse) sort of got in the way of the fun nostalgic vibe that the others created. On the other hand, he briefly mentioned his battle with MS, and how he’s grateful and happy for every day that he wakes up because he’s alive. In the immortal words of another nineties icon, Alexakis seems to be a bit of “a walking contradiction.”
- The group covers were the gems of the night – Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How it Feels” and REM’s “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” were particularly awesome. Each cover was led by a different lead singer – presumably they each picked their own tune.
Some things get better with age, and these musicians are no exception. The real magic was in how each singer was able to transport the listener back in time, but also performing a set that felt timeless. To hear fan favorites, the meanings behind them, and having the accessibility of seeing these performers in an intimate setting was a brilliant equation. This show will undoubtedly have you dusting off those old albums and wearing them out all over again. Get there – it’s well worth the price of admission.