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Lemonheads live at Liquid Room, Edinburgh
8th May 2007

Review by Stephen Gray from The Scotsman

Evan's back and as sweet as ever

IN a hot, packed Liquid Room, with the audience sticking to the vinyl walls, Evan Dando takes to the stage in a woolly hat.

Dando is The Lemonheads and vice versa, the soul and spirit of the band.

Formed in 1986, they enjoyed increasing worldwide success over the following decade.

Dando was the only unchanging member of the three-piece: more than ten bassists and twelve drummers are estimated to have come and gone in that time.

The pressures of success caused Dando to endure several well-publicised breakdowns and in 1997 he broke up the band.

After a few years of lying low, he began to build his reputation again as a solo artist, releasing albums and touring widely.

Now, another ten years on, he has resurrected The Lemonheads, and having recorded a self-titled album with bassist Karl Alvarez and drummer Bill Stevenson (both from The Descendents), they are on the road. Except, once again, the band on stage is different from that in the studio, and Vess Ruhtenberg and Devon Ashley of The Pieces play bass and drums respectively on this tour.

Fans of audience participation are rewarded early: during the second song Dando straddles the gap between stage and crush barrier and invites the front row in general to take over the strumming.

They need some encouragement and eventually someone has a go, but he can't have been very pleased with the result because he doesn't try it again.

In fact, he doesn't have too much to do with the audience apart from performing the songs and a couple of bits of banter.

There is a definite rapport nevertheless, like old friends settling into each other's company after an absence, and his habit of running songs together seems due more to a desire to squeeze in as many as he can than to any dislike of chatting.

One of the most effective aspects of the show is the way the set has been structured.

The opening half mixes the older, more melodic pop-rock with new tougher, punkier material and blends the up-tempo rock with just the right quantity of slower songs to stop things getting out of hand.

Then Ruhtenberg and Ashley leave the stage and Dando performs half a dozen songs solo with an acoustic guitar.

This is where the quality of his songwriting comes into focus, with tracks including The Outdoor Type and the hit Into Your Arms to finish.

The band return to rock once more, ending with some sampler-driven effects, before Dando performs another acoustic sequence for an encore.

As much as half the show is Dando solo, and that ratio seems about right.

Around half-way through, the woolly hat comes off: the trademark hair is still there, and more luxuriant than ever. Just before It's A Shame About Ray, he picks up a baseball cap, thrown from the audience, and pulls it on his head with a result not unlike Captain Caveman. Then, after the song, he asks whose it is and hands it back - great songs, a bit of mischief and a lot of heart.

 

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