at Double Door, Chicago
7th December 2006
Review by Tankboy from Chicagoist
Lemonheads Sweet, Not SourIt never takes us this long to write a review, we swear. We just wanted to let a little time pass so we could make sure that what we saw was what we saw. Rarely do we attend a rock and/or roll show and walk out with a huge smile plastered across our mug. Even rarer does this happen when you’re in a room full of people that paid twenty bucks a ticket. And, rare like a yeti, are the instances when a performer with a history of erratic appearances accomplishes this feat while coming off like they’re having the time of their life.
We greeted news of another album from The Lemonheads earlier this year with healthy skepticism, having been burned by the last outing to bear that imprimatur as well as lead ‘head Evan Dando’s solo record that came out a few years ago. When we heard Dando tapped Karl Alvarez and Bill Stevenson (Descendants/ALL) we grew more hopeful, figuring those two wouldn’t sign on if the end result was some vaguely hippyish mess. Sure enough, the album dropped, we were transported back to the college town we hid out in during the early ‘90s, and the world had the sweet beer-buzzed feeling of ’94 all over again.
Dando’s touring version of The Lemonheads (sadly missing, but not lacking due to the absence of, Alvarez and Stevenson) stopped in Chicago for a two-night stand at Double Door last week and we made it to Friday’s show. The room was pleasantly stuffed with folks hopeful that Dando would sing a few of their favorites and maybe inspire a make-out session or tow amongst the ageing hipsters in the room.
Dando delivered on the crowd’s hopes by serving up an energetic set filled with familiar songs while not neglecting some of the strong new material. We were following along, reading the two-page set-list taped to the stage, digging the vibe and swaying before the might of Dando’s infectious aw shucks charm, when gears shifted and the band left Dando alone on the stage with just his guitar. What followed was almost a half-hour’s worth of material Dando delivered san preparation. Our personal highlight? Dando’s reading of The Misfits “Skulls” as a teary-eyed ballad. Even mechanical malfunctions between gear and monitors, which would have sent most other artists storming off-stage, didn’t dampen the mood as Dando merely switched guitars and plowed on.
After this departure Dando relocated his band mates and closed out the show with furious flourish. We were well sated.
We were also charmed, if not knocked out, by openers VietNam. Their forthcoming album is charged with a certain Southern shaggy charm, and it has been insistently growing upon us. However, their live show that evening was lacking. While the songs seemed to be trying to cajole the performers to pick out a brisker pace, the scene seemed more road weary than well-traveled. Hopefully they’ll pick up a thing our two from their tour mates about setting up a crowd and knocking ‘em down in the future.