Evan Dando live at Concorde 2, Brighton - 12th May 2003

Review by Fiona Sturges of the Independent

At the very least, after nearly a decade of drink and drug abuse, you'd hope that Evan Dando might have the decency to look a bit rough. Maybe some telling dark circles around the eyes, perhaps, or a few premature wrinkles. But seven years after the last Lemonheads album, now clean and sober, the Boston-born songwriter is as goofy and gorgeous as ever.

Certainly, his unfeasibly fresh face isn't lost on tonight's audience. The girls seem practically tearful with longing, while the male fans, many of them now balding and paunchy, look on with a combination of admiration and annoyance.

Dando is one of indie-rock's best-loved burn-outs his intake during the Nineties is the stuff of legend. When he was arrested at Sydney airport, high on acid and trying to feed coins through the grates in the pavements, the spectre of his friend Kurt Cobain loomed large. Few thought he'd make it. Nowadays, however, he seems to be at the height of his powers.

As he bounds on stage with puppyish enthusiasm and launches straight into the old Lemonheads numbers 'The Outdoor Type' and 'Stove', he sends ripples of delight through the crowd. He's polite and funny, and sweetly hippie-ish in between songs. 'Did you guys see the rainbow earlier?' he gasps. Awww, we all privately coo, isn't he a lovely?

After a series of acoustic songs including a bittersweet version of 'My Drug Buddy', Dando finally invites his band on stage and the remainder of the set is divided between old and new, the quietly understated and the brashly rock'n'roll.

While old Lemonheads numbers such as 'Big Gay Heart' and 'It's a Shame About Ray' are obvious classics, songs from his new solo album Baby I'm Bored stand out as some of the best of his career. 'Why Do You Do This to Yourself?' and the Ben Lee-penned 'All My Life', which refer to former drug-related follies, are deeply moving, while 'Hard Drive', a song that looks optimistically forward, is catchy and clever.

The new songs are warm and melodic and the singer's delivery sensitive and passionate. Dando's improved lifestyle doesn't mean that the spirit of rock'n'roll has deserted him, mind you. Before 'Waking Up', by far the best song on Baby I'm Bored, he asks the lighting man to do 'something intense' with the lights and requests 'some more steam' (that's dry ice to you and me). Wilfully raucous, it provides a satisfying rush of blood to the head. Dando grins broadly, clearly pleased with himself. Looks and talent? Now there's a thing.

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