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17th June 2003

by Joanne Huffa from Chart Attack

It was a long time coming, but from the rapturous looks on people’s faces to the resounding whoops that followed every song, it was well worth the wait for the throngs that crowded Toronto’s Lee’s Palace to witness the return of Evan Dando.

Still looking like an early-‘90s college rock icon, the unshaven Dando ambled onstage wearing torn jeans, scuffed white Converse and a yellow Dickies (the band, not the clothing company) T-shirt. His current band is comprised of J Mascis & The Fog drummer George Berz, ex-Come guitar player Chris Brokaw and Juliana Hatfield, who’s playing bass for her old friend on this leg of the tour, itself an indie dream come true. While there were plenty of youngsters in the crowd, the predominantly late-20s to mid-30s audience was obviously rooting for the former alt.rock poster boy.

From the opening strains of Car Button Cloth’s "Hospital" through The Lemonheads’ discography (including much of It’s A Shame About Ray), a whack of covers and the majority of new solo record, Baby I’m Bored, Dando had the audience in his pocket. He made sly references to his much-publicized drug addiction with an abbreviated jog through "Style" ("Don’t wanna get stoned/But I don’t wanna not get stoned") and by kicking off "Into Your Arms" with a line from Velvet Underground’s "Heroin." But this show wasn’t a sober look at the past, it was a celebration of Dando’s triumphant return to recording and performing. His grateful smile every time the crowd cheered was disarming and endearing. There are few performers that seem so freakin’ happy to be onstage and the audience appreciated every minute of it.

Following a lengthy set with the band — including an eagerly anticipated "My Drug Buddy" that featured Hatfield’s signature backing vocals, Dando took the stage alone instead of pretending like the show was over and begging an encore. Warm versions of, among others, Gram Parsons’ "A Song For You" and the lovely "Hannah & Gabi" were given the acoustic treatment before the band returned. When the guitar tech mistook Dando’s request for a new guitar as an invitation to join him onstage, it only added to the charm of a singularly perfect evening.

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