Review of The Lemonheads live at The Middle East, Cambridge MA 22nd December 2007
by Brett Milano of The Boston HeraldCall it Evan Dando's personal Hometown Throwdown. The Lemonheads leader turned his weekend show into a loose, lively and very loud affair that recalled the band's early days as an unkempt, but still very tuneful Boston garage band.
If you were expecting the sensitive popster Dando, who was an alternative heartthrob 10 years ago, you had to guess again. His current Lemonheads, drummer Bill Stevenson and bassist Karl Alvarez (both of the Descendents; Stevenson is also an ex-Black Flag) are easily the noisiest ever, with Stevenson piledriving nonstop behind the drums.
As the sole guitarist, Dando had to crank the distortion high to compete. So once-gentle pop gems such as "Down About It" and "Alison's Starting to Happen" were given feedback-heavy solos and long crash-and-burn endings. Even Dando's generous 10-song solo set, played between the hourlong main set and the encore, was far from acoustic.
There were times one missed the softer touch of former partners Nic Dalton and Juliana Hatfield (especially on "My Drug Buddy," which needed Hatfield's harmonies). But the quality of Dando's songwriting shone through, and new tunes from last year's self-titled album showed he hasn't lost the knack. Older rockers such as "If I Could Talk I'd Tell You" were well-suited to the heavier treatment. And Saturday offered 90 minutes worth of evidence that Dando's reputation as a likable screw-up has denied him proper credit as a master songwriter.
Not that he didn't screw up just a little. Dando appeared to be in a loose frame of mind, stopping a couple of songs to change tunings, and taking one tumble to the stage floor during a solo. By then the show had taken on a party vibe, with guest appearances by local punk figure Springa (who sang an Angry Samoans cover) and scenester Billy Ruane (who tried to goad Dando into singing a Billie Holiday song).
Still, Dando's audience remains about as young as it was in the '90s, with a lot of fresh-faced (and largely female) college types. They still know they can depend on Dando to be a friendly tour guide to the wilder side.
Dutch pop band Raccoon opened with acoustic-based pop in the Crowded House vein. Though a few good hooks were evident, the band seemed a little too soft-core for this setting.