The Lemonheads live at Paradise Rock Club, Boston MA - 1st April 2008

Review by Brett Milano from The Boston Herald


It shouldn’t be a big deal to see the Lemonheads play the 1992 album “It’s A Shame About Ray” in its entirety. After all, the album is barely a half-hour long, and the band lineup that made the disc is long gone. And leader Evan Dando already plays most of the songs at just about all his shows, whether Lemonheads or solo.

Yet it still felt a little special when Dando and his current Lemonheads - bassist Vess Ruthenberg and drummer Devon Ashley - did the full “Ray” for a filled-to-capacity Paradise on Tuesday. Released last week in a two-CD deluxe reissue, the album caught a moment in pop culture when the punk guys turned sensitive, when a chorus like “I love my drug buddy” could sound like true romance, and when a disheveled misfit like Dando could become a teen pinup. The songs are half elated rockers and half wistful, slightly hazy ballads - but when played straight through, you get to experience the wild mood swings that were part of Dando’s world back then.

Despite his famously checkered past, Dando appeared onstage sober and well-scrubbed. And he was all business, doing a good two-dozen songs in rapid fire: After “Ray” there was a short acoustic set before the band returned to do newer material; the only loose moment came when Nash Kato, the Urge Overkill leader who’s been hanging out locally, joined for an unrehearsed encore of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” (a song Urge Overkill covered in Quentin Tarantino’s film “Pulp Fiction”).

Stronger covers came during the acoustic set, when Dando did songs by Lucinda Williams (“Abandoned”) and Michael Nesmith (“Different Drum”) between the twangier side of his catalog. If those weren’t enough to point out his longtime connection to alternative country, the Flying Burrito Brothers T-shirt he wore onstage did.

The only thing missing from “Ray” was the rest of the old Lemonheads: Though the new lineup was tight, “My Drug Buddy” and “Bit Part” lost some allure without Juliana Hatfield’s vocals, which the audience filled in. And they didn’t technically play the whole album, leaving out the hit cover of “Mrs. Robinson” that was added to the second pressing.

Still, the night wasn’t just about nostalgia; it was proof positive that Dando is still in the game.


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