Review of Evan Dando live at AB Club, Brussels
by Carsten Wohlfield from Luna Kafe 20th December 2000
The comeback of a lemonhead
Three and a half years after his last European tour and only weeks after he married British model Elizabeth Moses Evan Dando made a surprise return to European stages with two shows just before Christmas. One show was a short support set for his Dutch friends from Bettie Serveert at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, the other his only headline date at the small (and sold out) AB Club in midtown Brussels. Shortly before the gig Dando learned of the untimely death of his long time friend, English singer Kirsty MacColl, who was killed in an accident while on holiday in Mexico. An incident which affected the whole show, because as a consequence Dando got drunk before the show and he even apologised for the sorry state he was in at the end of the concert.
Just with a beat-up Gibson acoustic guitar and some effect pedals for company he took to the stage at 8.45pm, wearing a warm jacket and a red wooly head that covered his eyes and sometime even his nose! Even keeping in mind that he just had heard of a friend's death he didn't look a guy who just married a beautiful woman a few weeks ago and was happy to be back on the live circuit in Europe after a three year hiatus.
The show started with pretty heartless versions of The Turnpike Down, Down About It and the title track off his 1992 album It's A Shame About Ray (maybe the best pop record of the last ten years) and with his favorite toy, his fuzz pedal, Dando managed to squeeze a screaming loud (and somewhat out of place) guitar solo into almost every single song. Doing that he ruined some of his weaker tunes, but he couldn't damage the better ones, like the ever amazing Rudderless, regardless how hard he tried. The audience didn't seem to mind - they were obviously overwhelmed with joy to see Dando live on stage again after such a long absence.
After about 30 minutes the strange vibe disappeared together with Dando's hat and the rendition of Ride With Me, sung six feet away from the mic stand and with soooo much passion, was worth the admission fee several times over alone. But it got even better. Finally Dando started to talk to the audience and shared some funny stories about getting a cab to the venue and about two taxi drivers getting into a fight (or something). And there were also three brand new songs from his forthcoming comeback album, tentatively titled In The Grass All Wine Colored. The songs were without a doubt better than anything we got to hear from Dando since 1992/93. The audience seemed to agree, as the funnily titled Whoops and the tearjerker of a ballad, All My Life (key line: "All my life I thought I needed all the things I didn't need at all") were greeted with enthusiastic applause. And the third new song, The Same Thing (You Thought Hard About Is The Same Part I Can Live Without) looks like to be a certain highlight on the next Dando album as well. After 45 minutes Dando left the stage with a word and for a few minutes - the lights in the venue came up already, the outro music playing - it looked as if he wouldn't return.
Eventually he did come back, now sporting a nice T-shirt with Elmo from Sesame Street on it. And it was this 35-minute encore that really saved the night. There were nice cover versions (Thirteen by Big Star, Mike Nesmith's Different Drum and The Stooges' Real Good Time) and tons of requests from the audience, like Stove, Favorite T and the inevitable, but very welcome Confetti. The highlight of the night was the closing trio of songs, though. Apart from Ben Lee's I Wish I Was Him (that the Australian teen had written about his idol Dando in the early 90s), the singer from Massachusetts also played Homos, an obscure cult classic by American gay band The Frogs. Why Dando chose this song to dedicate it to his wife, who was sitting at the edge of the stage singing along, will probably remain a mystery. At least the song gave him a rare chance to show his irresistible smile. The show ended on an emotional high note, when Dando dedicated a perfect rendition of Victoria Williams' Frying Pan to his late friend Kirsty that made you forget the first few songs of tonight's set. And in the end you can say: Even though it didn't look like it for the last three and a half years (and the first half hour of this show): Dando's back, as good as ever!