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Evan Dando live at Leadmill, Sheffield - 10th May 2003

Review by Dave Simpson of the Guardian

"Hullo, Sheffield!" cries Evan Dando . "It's a long time since I've been here." A decade has passed since Dando - then fronting Lemonheads, a solo vehicle in all but name - was the darling of indie girls everywhere. Like his tragic friend Kurt Cobain, he shot to global fame from the US underground and was equally uncomfortable with stardom. Dando said he'd rather be watching the shows than on stage. He particularly hated the fact that Lemonheads' cover of Simon & Garfunkel's Mrs Robinson outsold his own gorgeously crafted takes on country rock.

Six years after he last played in the UK to general indifference, Dando is back and on a much more even keel. His new album, Baby I'm Bored, shows his talent for pop hooks and plaintive melodies has not been diminished by age or the drug abuse that almost killed him. To look at him, it's like none of it ever happened. The check shirt and enveloping haircut are unchanged.

The James Dean looks still smoulder. He still carries a guitar as if he's carrying a log. These days, he has a manageably large audience, some of them newcomers possibly intrigued by the man behind the tales. In the age of Britney, his music sounds completely out of time but deliciously so. No one weaves a guitar/vocal melody quite like Evan Dando .

His great talent was always for poignancy, and experiences have rendered this more potent than ever. When Dando sings "All my life, I thought I needed all the things I didn't need at all", the effect is eerie, spine-tingling and beautiful. He's clean now, but not averse to a mischievous "Has everybody had enough to drink?" But for the most part, he just closes his eyes and bashes out the glorious music, touching base between Nirvana and the Byrds. The set divides between old songs and new, and people mouth along with every word. He leaves to rapturous applause, but there's no encore. That's another needless aspect of the fame game he's glad to leave behind.

 

Review by Eleanor Goodman of the BBC

A lone figure took to the stage amidst hazy orange lights. He cradled an electro-acoustic guitar, wore an understated checked shirt and looked at the crowd through the eyes that once won him the title of sexiest man alive by People magazine.

Evan Dando was back in town.

His gig began with a short acoustic set. Starting with ‘Hannah and Gabi’ from the Lemonheads’ 1992 offering ‘It’s a Shame about Ray’, his solitary onstage presence emphasised his status as songwriter of the disbanded indie outfit, a project that he always dominated creatively.

After a sprinkling of Lemonheads tracks he gestured meaningfully to the future by playing ‘Why do you do this to yourself’, a countrified exploration of sadness from new solo outing ‘Baby I’m Bored’.

Five songs in, and Dando got ‘the band out’. As if by magic, his hired musicians appeared from nowhere and launched straight into ‘The Great Big No’, a song that turned out to be a Great Big Crowd Pleaser, as fans danced and sang along.
‘Waking Up’ encouraged a similar response. A new song with a slight touch of melancholy grunge, it seemed a subtle reminder of Dando’s exploits with the Cobains in the nineties.

Unfortunately, at nearly twenty songs his set was a little overlong for all those but the diehards, and at times his music verged on what one drunken onlooker called ‘boring old man songs’.By leaving without an encore he also disappointed his loyal fanbase.

However, his performance generated a noticeable sense of community, produced not only by nostalgia but also his sympathetic approach to emotion, the fact that despite his long hair his eyes still see universal truths clearly.
At the height of his self-destruction Dando was arrested at Sydney airport, high on acid and bleeding. The story goes that he pleaded with officers to release him so he could go off and find his mind.

A few years later, and to the joy of his dedicated fans, it looks like he’s rediscovering it.

 

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