Review by David Segal from The Washington Post
If that was the cleaned-up, dried-out, drug-free Evan Dando playing the Black Cat on Friday night, just think of what an incoherent kook the guy was through his burnout years. At various moments during this 80-minute show, the former singer and songwriter of the Lemonheads spouted non sequiturs, baffled his band mates and told a couple of memorably dreadful jokes.
"Why did the girl with no arms and no legs have no friends?" he asked the audience. "Because she had no arms and no legs."
At another point, he stopped the show and instructed the sound guy to play a song from an album by a Mexican brass band over the PA. Why? Once you figure that one out, maybe you'll know what prompted him to pay his fans a random compliment about their hygiene: "You guys clean yourselves a lot down here. I always notice that you're a clean lot." With those mysteries solved, take a crack at what might possess a guy to shout, "I hate the kids! I hate the kids! Thanks, Mom!" between songs.
"At least I don't talk about politics," Dando offered at one point, perhaps aware that when he ventured beyond "thank you," much of his patter was absurdist babble.
Dando, it seems, doesn't have all his lines down for his assigned role in the comeback chapter of his peculiar career. The story goes like this: Hunky songwriter fronts great alternative-rock band from Boston called the Lemonheads. Releases a couple of punk-pop albums, most notably, "It's a Shame About Ray" in 1992, which yields a minor hit thanks to a steroid-enhanced version of Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson."
Apparently oppressed by acclaim, money and his heartthrob looks, Dando gets hooked on hard drugs, including crack and heroin, and vanishes from the music business for seven years. He reemerges a few months ago with a strong solo album, "Baby I'm Bored," and announces that he's sober, blissfully married and ready to rock.
The happy ending isn't necessarily fiction. On Friday night when Dando, now 36, focused on the music, he was triumphantly good. Looking a little scrawny, he seemed glad to be back among the living, with his voice and guitar skills intact. He opened the show, smiling shyly, with a half-dozen solo acoustic versions of old favorites like "Outdoor Type" and "Hannah & Gabi."
Then out came his band, which included longtime collaborator Juliana Hatfield on bass and Chris Brokaw on lead guitar. They burned through highlights of the Lemonheads canon, Dando's vocals failing only on the hard-to-reach notes in the chorus of "It's a Shame About Ray."
Dando is a biographical songwriter, and many of his back-when tunes are about his bad habits (take "My Drug Buddy," whose chorus goes, "There's still some of the same stuff we got yesterday"). The new songs, which he spread throughout the show, are about shaking off demons and turning a corner, and much of their power came from the well-known and authentic personal struggles that inspired them.
On the soft-country rock of "All My Life," he confesses: "All my life, I thought I needed all the things I didn't need at all." "Hard Drive" sounds like the musings of a man who has just awakened from a turbulent haze and is ready to declare peace with himself ("This is the town I'm living in, this is the street I'm walking down, these are the friends I'm visiting, these are the clothes I'm wearing now").
Dando sounded genuine on these numbers, but he was erratic enough between songs to make you wonder. And he saved his best surprise for the end, when he suddenly muttered, "Thank you, good night," and abruptly left the stage after a power-chord instrumental. The funny part was just how startled the band seemed by his exit, particularly Brokaw, who shrugged as if to say, "I guess we're done."