Evan Dando live
at the Bowery Ballroom, NYC
12th June 2003
Evan Dando's show last week was all about smiles. When the crowd loudly professed its love and proclaimed his undying genius, a little grin snuck onto his face and then off again. When Juliana Hatfield—Juliana Hatfield—on bass, chimed in with her Sprite-clear harmony on "Stop My Head," from his recent comeback disc Baby I'm Bored ("Don't listen to me, listen to yourself"), he smirked over at her, two old friends with an in-joke. And at the end, when he turned up the lights and asked what we wanted for an encore, and the packed room bombarded him with titles he'd skipped in an almost 30-song set ("Altamont"! "Green Eyes"!) he just looked out at the noise and beamed.
Maybe it's true that Dando gets "Paid to Smile." But as he stood there, all lanky limbs, lank hair and linebacker shoulders, even opening his eyes occasionally and leaning back from the mic as if to hear himself out on the choruses, it was hard not to feel that he'd earned it. After all, he had shown up, on time, sober, with a band tighter than the one on the new album, including fellow Bostonian and ex-Come-er Chris Brokaw tearing it up on guitar. Dando sang every old song we ever loved, from "It's a Shame About Ray" to "My Drug Buddy" to "Big Gay Heart," and the voice was still there, weathered and golden like a knotty-pine plank—true, the high registers were faded out a little bit, but that only matched the way he sounds on your 10-year-old, passed-around mix tape. Not everybody gets to dig their own way down to rock bottom and then write about it all the way back up, but then not everybody can make being lost sound so pretty.