Review of Evan Dando live at Maxwells, Hoboken NJ
by C. Bottomley from vh1 December 2000
There was a time - somewhere around 1993 - when you didn't need a red leather body suit or a hairy hieroglyph decorating your chin in order to make great pop music. True, Evan Dando had the chiseled looks of a Martha's Vineyard lifeguard. But with 1992's It's a Shame About Ray he produced the album to fall in love and crash in bed to. Just as more and more people clutched Ray and its rocky follow-up Come On Feel the Lemonheads close to their hearts, Dando picked up the other requisite to mid-'90s success - a nasty drug habit. Kurt burned out. The campus heartthrob faded away.
So the biggest surprise of the night is that the man on Maxwell's tiny stage a) has actually appeared; b) can stand upright; c) plays more than five songs, and d) still looks like he could pull you out of a stormy Atlantic. Those who turned up in darkest New Jersey to see Boston's almost-finest strum at this solo show have been buffeted by worse - like Matchbox Twenty. If only the AOR monsters that followed him had an ounce of the tuneful care Dando threw into stuff like "Stove" - perhaps the saddest song ever dedicated to a household appliance.
Rarely cracking the stoned smile that got him into Spin, Dando still sings like Dando, too, with a vulnerable gruffness. Thanks to a dodgy amp he picked up in a pawnshop though, his guitar feeds back to such an extent that you have to snatch at what glitters in his set - Victoria Williams' "Frying Pan," the unintentional psychedelic whine that erupts on "My Drug Buddy," and a "Rudderless" whose "Tired of getting high/ Guess I don't wanna die" lyrics are only more touching next to Dando's demons.
Dando tries continuing a cappella, but when he forgets the words to a new song he vanishes into the crowd. Someone outside cajoles him to come back, and you couldn't ask for a better encore. He tips his hat to Gram Parsons with a cover of "$1000 Wedding" and is funny again on "The Outdoor Type" ("I can't go away with you on a rock climbing weekend/ What if something's on TV and it's never shown again?") from the underrated Car Button Cloth. Cursing his amp, he's off again like a ship without a rudder. Don't keep us waiting so long the next time.