Wow, 30 years since I first saw Evan Dando perform these songs, under the arches at London’s Subterania venue, 6th Oct 1992. Loved it so much, that exactly 30 years ago to the day I repeated the whole experience again 2 days later, at The Old Trout in Windsor. For many people, It’s A Shame About Ray, would be the first Lemonheads album they’d heard, in fact many could be forgiven for thinking it was their first and not actually their 5th, as it was the first one to trouble the UK charts, albeit peaking at No.33.
A lot has happened since then, rivers of water under the bridge and almost as many band members passing through as The Fall. Dando is the only constant member during the 36 years since they formed at High School in Boston, Massachusetts, with Ben Deily and Jesse Peretz. Dando’s flirtation with substances has been well documented and posts on Social Media, from earlier shows on the tour, seemed to hint that he’d been less than sober and that the shows had been a bit of a car crash. However, tonight he appears on fine form, certainly from my vantage point in the photo pit. Unusually we were allocated the first 8 songs to get our shots, but to be honest not sure anyone was actually counting. As the lighting was so poor again anyway, we didn’t have a lot to shoot!! It’s a sell out show and some people are excited as Courtney Love made a surprise appearance at the earlier London show, to duet on Into Your Arms. Sadly tonight she is nowhere to be seen!
Dispensing with the usual format of these “Album Anniversary” shows, Dando came on and performed a short solo acoustic set first, which included The Outdoor Type, Being Around and Into Your Arms, before bringing the “band” on to run through “It’s A Shame About Ray”. Again, rather unusually he chose to deliver the whole of his solo set from “stage right”, rather than centre stage. Dando is not an orthodox man by any stretch of the imagination. He looks a little dishevelled, and certainly not giving off the vibes of one of the “sexiest men in rock n roll” (my wife’s words, the last thing she said to me*, still ringing in my ears). To be fair, in this light nobody can really see him that well, the grunge aesthetic is still in evidence, but with shades of Charles Manson. He cuts an imposing figure at 6ft 3in, slightly hunched at the microphone, belying his true height. One thing is absolutely apparent though, his voice is back! Dando cites this fact in a recent comment about being thrown off the recent Jawbreaker tour in the US, as though they didn’t want to have to compete with a support act blowing them off stage every night. The official reason given is a little more banal, but don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, is the first rule of Rock n Roll!
Dando has never been one to waste words on stage and tonight is no exception. A few more asides than the last time he graced this stage, but it really is a heads down, arse up delivery that the likes of Bob Mould or Frank Black would be proud of. He does actually welcome the band on stage before they blast their way through the bare 30 minutes that Ray takes to complete. True to it’s original release, there’s no Mrs Robinson included, which was added to the later editions, in fact it doesn’t even make it into the 35 or so songs that make up the set tonight!
It’s great to hear these songs played straight through again. This incarnation of the band are tight and very powerful. It’s a proper rock show that they deliver. I know I’m going to be revisiting this album again very soon.
The rest of the set mostly consists of Dando solo material and tracks from the two covers albums, Varshons Vol 1 & 2, they recorded since the last original material in 2006. For me the standout track was Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness, a cover of a song by country singer John Prine, but made famous by UK group Alabama 3 for their version’s inclusion in the soundtrack of the early noughties cult series, Sopranos.
After an hour and a quarter, Dando simply finishes singing, mumbles something inaudible and takes of his guitar, before ambling offstage without fuss. The fans applaud and scream for more. It’s been that good. After a couple of minutes, a roadie slides on and turns the amps off. It’s over but still more is demanded. Even the introduction of the house lights, doesn’t deter some from calling for an encore.
It’s unlikely we’ll get any new Lemonheads material, but 2023 is the 30th Anniversary of the best seller “Come On Feel The Lemonheads”, so perhaps we’ll get to see them one more time afterall.
[*it was the last thing she said to me tonight, she’s not dead!!!]
You’ve just got time to catch them on their last 3 shows before they head back to the US. Click on link for tickets.
Mon 10th Oct – Brighton Chalk
Tues 11th Oct – Norwich Epic
Weds 12th Oct – Southampton 1865