Summerland Tour Featuring Everclear, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Marcy Playground, and Lit Tuesday, July 3, 2012 Comerica Theatre
See also: Our full Summerland slideshow, featuring Gin Blossoms, Everclear, Lit, Marcy Playground, and Sugar Ray. See also: Should We Feel Bad About '90s Nostalgia? See also: Our Throwback Thursday archives, feat. No Doubt, Spice Girls, TLC, Garbage, and more.
The dream of the '90s is alive in Phoenix (kinda).
There may not have been any Beanie Babies, pagers, or butterfly clips (though there were some overalls), but the line up of Everclear, Sugar Ray, The Gin Blossoms, Lit, and Marcy Playground made for some prime '90s nostalgia. The night could have easily been summed up with "Sex and Candy," "My Own Worst Enemy," "Hey Jealousy," "Fly," and "Santa Monica," but the bands played plenty more alternative rock hits with a few new songs peppered in.
Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath acted as the unofficial host for the evening, first making an appearance by introducing Marcy Playground and complimenting the small audience on being the "best people in rock 'n roll" because they arrived early to see the opening band. Marcy Playground's self-titled album is pretty cool, I can also hear a little Stephen Malkmus in there, but that influence is almost completely lost on their later material. The trio opened with the first track from its self-titled record, "Poppies," which had that vibe, as well as "Sex and Candy" (of course), but the rest sounded like a mediocre version of The Toadies.
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Lit followed Marcy Playground's lead by opening with "Four," the first song from the group's most successful album, A Place in the Sun. As A. Jay Popoff was singing about fighting and sleeping with his girlfriend, he used instrumental breaks to take swigs of Jagermeister and spit it in the air. Lit was one of the most entertaining band to watch, as Popoff never stood still and the guitarists made full use of the stage by running around like crazy. I'm pretty sure most of Popoff's Jager went to waste, but it looked cool, and that's all that matters. Half of Lit's set was comprised of what the audience wanted to hear- tracks from A Place in the Sun, Remarkably, a few fans were singing along to the band's new song, "The Broken." Popoff introduced "Last Time Again" as a song from the American Pie 2 soundtrack, and the context was surprisingly helpful.
The Gin Blossoms' set was pretty heavy on New Miserable Experience, which was a good thing, so fans could sing along. Robin Wilson high-fived audience members as he took the stage and tore into "Follow You Down." He gave a few girls tambourines, took a swing of a beer, and did some more high fiving throughout the set. He looked truly stoked to be on stage back in Phoenix, as he talked about how he spent his very busy day, including a trip to Chandler Skate Park, Restaurant Mexico, and some water skiing at Saguaro Lake.
Guitarist Jesse Valenzuela said, "You know you're playing your hometown crowd when your mother and your dentist are here," while the rest of the band talked about the party they were going to have backstage. The band closed out with "Hey Jealousy" as Wilson jumped over the guard-rail to wade in the crowd.
Sugar Ray really dialed in the nostalgia as the band took the stage to the Saved by the Bell theme song. The band covered "Wipeout" as Mark McGrath appeared in Raybans, a white suit, and a skinny tie, which seemed better than what he described as his Justin Bieber vest from earlier. McGrath talked a lot, claiming that he "lost a girl in Arizona to some jock. His name was Jake Plummer." He introduced "Every Morning" as the most popular song of 1999, which in fact isn't true. It may have been Sugar Ray's biggest single, but the biggest hit of the year technically was "Baby One More Time," though it would have been pretty hilarious to hear Sugar Ray's take on Britney Spears. Oddly enough, they did play a cover, from what McGrath described as "the greatest fucking rock band of all time," being The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop."
He revealed that his relationship with his wife of 18-years ended before the show via iPhone message, so he looked forward to meeting some of the "chickies" in Arizona, adding that "when you're young, you don't know what love is," introducing "When It's Over."
McGrath's constant attempts at hyping the crowd were a little obnoxious, but it ended well. He mentioned that tomorrow was the 4th of July and dedicated "Fly" to the troops (weird, I know), then got in the crowd and handed off the microphone to a bunch of tone deaf singers for a couple lines of "Fly."
Everclear, or "one of the most prolific songwriters of our era," according to McGrath, closed out the evening with hit songs in a strange set. The band now includes a keyboardist, which adds an interesting touch to the songs. Art Alexakis didn't seem that into being on stage, but hey, at least they played a bunch of So Much for the Afterglow tunes. As the band opened with the title track, I couldn't help but think that seeing them live was nothing like the scene in Loser. Alexakis mentioned that "if you don't have family, you're fucked" before introducing "Father of Mine," closing out three songs from Afterglow.
He asked if there are any old school Everclear fans out there, namely fans of Sparkle and Fade. Thankfully, a bunch of fans cheered as the band performed "Heroin Girl," which lacked enthusiasm. Alexakis talked through the lyrics and didn't seem to care much that it was "just another overdose," but then again, there were some microphone issues, so maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt.
In contrast to Mark McGrath's lady problems, Alexakis took a moment to talk about his family- his wife is from Tucson and he has a daughter named Arizona. He wasn't going to see his wife for a week or so, so he decided to play a "song about love" that he said is very special to him, "I Will Buy You A New Life."
There were conflicting messages during the piano intro to "Wonderful," as Alexakis requested a dance party and the bassist lead a clap. The song is kind of a bummer to begin with, but the piano made it sound that much sadder. The group closed with what seemed to be the moment that everyone was waiting for all night, "Santa Monica."
The house lights came back on, "Blister in the Sun" began to play, about half of the audience left, and Alexakis came back on stage for what appeared to be an unplanned encore. He invited a bunch of girls on stage and asked the band to play something funky. He asked the 15 or so girls on stage to dance as the band covered "867-5309/Jenny." An odd choice, indeed, especially as Alexakis stopped the song and chastised some girl named Samantha for not dancing.
And that was it, Summerland was over without Everclear performing the song "Summerland." The Gin Blossoms had the most solid set by far, performing what sounded almost exactly like the recorded versions of their songs. The show was a good stroll down memory lane, though I couldn't help but wonder if these bands sounded any better 10 years ago.
So Much For the Afterglow Everything to Everyone Father of Mine Heroin Girl I Will Buy You A New Life Be Careful What You Ask For AM Radio Wonderful Santa Monica
Sugar Ray Setlist: Wipeout Someday Answer the Phone Every Morning When It's Over Mean Machine Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones Cover) Fly
Gin Blossoms Setlist: Follow You Down Until I Fall Away I'm Ready Found Out About You Allison Road A Million Miles Away 'Til I Hear it From You Hey Jealousy
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Lit Setlist: Four Last Time Again Miss You Gone Zip Lock Miserable The Broken My Own Worst Enemy
Marcy Playground Setlist: Poppies Devil Woman Rock and Roll Heroes Special Up and Down Comin' Up From Behind Punk Rock Superstar Sex and Candy It's Saturday
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Summerland Tour featuring Everclear and Sugar Ray at Comerica Theatre. Personal Bias: I grew up listening to these bands, it was my first time seeing everyone live except for Lit. The Crowd: Gen-Xers. I was surprised to see a guy wearing a Germs shirt. Overheard in the Crowd: "There's a kid passed out in a guitar case back there, that's freakin hilarious." Yeah...that really happened. Random Notebook Dump: It's hard to use an iPad to record a video at a concert without looking like a jackass.