at Emo's, Austin TX
9th February 2007
Review by Tara Hall from Live Daily
Frontman Evan Dando hasn't changed much since his glory days of the early '90s--and, for the most part, it's a good thing.
From his stick-straight, signature locks to his smooth, visceral voice, the once troubled rocker has retained his most worthy assets. What has changed? He seems comfortable in his own skin, adding an air of earned confidence to his live show Friday (2/9) at Emo's in Austin, TX.
Touring in support of their self-titled album released in September 2006, The Lemonheads treated a chilly, packed house to a near-nonstop set of old and new songs. To say that the latest album was long awaited would be a stark understatement. Judging by the size and demographic of the outdoor venue's crowd (the average age approached 30), it's obvious that the avid fans of more than a decade ago still keep up with this shaggy singer and his work.
The evening's set began with "Confetti," a straightforward rock track off the group's breakthrough album, "It's a Shame about Ray." Dando, appearing fresh-faced and amped to be in front of an eager mob, sported aviator style glasses and an ivory stocking cap, hiding his hair completely. "Black Gown" and "Pittsburgh," both fast-paced numbers from the latest release, followed. The night, however, belonged to old-school material. The jangly "Tenderfoot," from 1996's "Car Button Cloth," kicked off the set's extended detour into the albums of yesteryear.
The group--Dando on guitar and vocals, Vess Ruhtenberg on bass and Devon Ashley on drums--played like a well-oiled machine throughout the entire set. Ruhtenberg and Ashley, not the bassist and drummer featured on the recent "Lemonheads" album, fared well on the selected set list, as if they'd been the with band from the beginning.
Dando had fun, merging one track into another, noticeable only to the most devoted listeners. "Bit Part," a head-bobbing alt-rock number, segued without hesitation into the thrashing hard-rock sound of "I Am a Rabbit" from 1988's "Lick." And, as if at midnight the sun had finally subsided, Dando suddenly removed his shades, exposing his clear blue eyes. (A collective sigh was faintly audible.)
He didn't steer away from his jaded past, referred to in telling tracks like "My Drug Buddy." With lyrics such as "I'm too much with myself/I wanna be someone else" and "I love my drug buddy," it was a stark reminder of his once disastrous rock-and-roll lifestyle.
The tempo slowed a bit with the start of "No Backbone," an unencumbered admission of vulnerability and defeat found on "The Lemonheads," but the slow pace didn't linger. "The Great Big No," from 1993's "Come on Feel the Lemonheads," showcased Ashley's tight drumming skills and overall enthusiasm with smiles and nods exchanged between him and Ruhtenberg. Even Dando got into it, pulling off his stocking cap, not concerned in the least about his now disheveled hair.
As the evening wore on, the audience's reaction grew. Hardcore fans screamed the lyrics of "Rick James Style" along with Dando: "Don't wanna get stoned/but I don't want to not get stoned." And, with males in the majority, it came as no surprise that the confession known as "The Outdoor Type" from "Car Button Cloth," had them all singing along again. Dando wrapped the evening's jam-packed set with "Big Gay Heart" from "Come on Feel the Lemonheads," another track that got the crowd on their toes.
This masculine attraction to The Lemonheads, although initially surprising, isn't so hard to understand. Dando's musical method is a mixture of country-rock, punk and, dare I say, grunge rock--all genres that hit hard for the male persuasion. He's got an undeniable knack for wooing ladies with just enough sensitivity in his songs, but not enough to turn off the manliest of men. That's why, after nearly 20 years behind the mic, Dando and crew still pull a packed house on their sparse national tours.
"Bit Part," then into "I Am a Rabbit"
"My Drug Buddy"
"Down about It"
"Ride with Me"
"The Great Big No"
"How Will I Know"
"The Turnpike Down"
"Rick James Style"
"If I Could Talk I'd Tell You"
"It's About Time"
MC5 cover – "Looking at You"
Pieces of Britney Spears ("I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,") Tom Petty ("Free Fallin',") Christina Aguilera ("Genie in a Bottle") into "Shots Is Fired," then "Stove"
"The Outdoor Type"
"Big Gay Heart"