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Evan Dando live at the Bowery Ballroom, NYC
12th June 2003

Review by Dfactor from Pop Matters
 

The "Evan Dando is Alive And Presumably Well" revival show came to town last week, and what a fine time it was indeed. That is, if you lowered any expectations, and just enjoyed seeing Dando play his alt-pop-country songs with a presumed new leash on life.

In recent interviews (MAGNET, Big Takeover, etc.), Mr. Dando claims to have cleaned himself up in the last year or so, following a post 9-11 splurge in bodily junketeering. Or maybe not. He looked happy enough onstage, but his boyish good looks have hardened, and his voice was somewhat thin. Frankly, this show didn't really get warmed up until halfway through. More below.

The Pieces, a pop trio, opened the show with a fun 30-minute set of catchy pop songs and refreshingly unpretentious stage demeanor. I don't know anything about 'em, and calling your band the Pieces isn't really gonna help interested observers when Googling them. In any case, nice guy-girl harmonies, a cool drummer, and Westerbergian-like vocals from the singer.

Next up was Cleveland's mighty Cobra Verde, touring in support of their rockin' CD Easy Listening. They're playing some shows with Evan Dando on the coasts, as well as playing solo shows throughout the Midwest. CV singer John Petkovic was dragging a cold/cough around him for this show, and sounded pretty hoarse during his onstage comments. But a couple of beers down the hatch and a roaring band behind him brought him back to life. Their catchy, anthemic pop songs like "Riot Industry", "Modified Frankenstein" and "'Til Sunrise" sounded great, aided by the kickass rhythm section of bassist Ed Sotelo and drummer Mark Klein. Frank Vazzano's rhythm guitar and J Mascis' ballistic leads rounded out the band's sonic attack. Catch Cobra Verde on this tour, they're hot.

Wearing his yellow Dickies shirt (as seen in the new MAGNET photos), Evan Dando bounced out onstage (water in hand) with his band for this fifth show on the new tour. Dando was on guitar and vocals, Juliana Hatfield (ex-Blake Babies) handled bass and added some half-hearted backup vocals (sound troubles?), Chris Brokaw (ex-Come, Codeine, currently Consonant, the New Year) added country fills on lead guitar, and George Berz ("of Westville, Massachusetts," as Dando introduced him) pounded the drums.

Opening with an exuberant "The Great Big No" (with my favorite-ever one note guitar solo!), the band started out O.K., but elements of uncertainty kept appearing. Dando's voice sounded a bit thin (under rehearsed?), and Hatfield kept a distanced, mother-like eye on him, as if she had to keep him on track or something. The band often circled drummer Berz, with their backs to the crowd, as if they were rehearsing in a studio, sometimes killed any momentum with long breaks in between the songs. A broken snare drum contributed to the delays. And what was with that weird skronky noise-jazz in between the breaks for the first six to seven songs? A cruel joke? Or a Bowery Ballroom sound glitch?

Nonetheless, Dando commanded the crowd's favor, alternating tracks from his fine new LP, Baby I'm Bored, with Lemonheads numbers. A rockin' "The Same Thing" from Baby I'm Bored was next, followed by the Lemonheads' "Down About It" and a contemplative "Hard Drive" and "All My Life" from the new LP.

After about 45 minutes or so, the band left the stage, and Dando slung his acoustic guitar on, and got into some comfortable solo territory. Hearing "The Outdoor Type", "Paid to Smile", and a cover of the Misfits' "Skulls" sung in that soft, warm Dando voice, which had warmed up nicely throughout the show, was the highlight of the show for me. He played solo acoustic for over a half-hour, finishing with classic Lemonheads tracks "Into Your Arms", "Mark My Path" and "Stove". A lovely finish to a somewhat exasperating show, but with the promise of better shows to come this summer.

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