Review of Lemonheads live at Shepherds Bush Empire, London
14th September 2005
By Daniel Martin from NME
Shortly before his gig, Evan Dando takes a look outside the Empire and sees a tout hoarding a load of his tickets.
"I think you'll find those are mine" he says, snatching them. The tout, unsure of who this haggard guy with a floppy fringe is, lamps him.
It must've been an easy mistake:
The Lemonheads should have been enormous. Way back when in the mythical early
'90s, when Nirvana were still going, Evan Dando was the blue-eyed boy of US
rock, a Kurt Cobain born sunny-side up with a genius knack for country-grunge and optimistic college pop. But underneath lurked just as dangerous a drug habit but, rather than do a Cobain. Dando pulled a Doherty, dragging the decline out slowly over years, without ever losing it completely. Low points were plenty; the
'affair' with Courtney Love, getting booed at Glastonbury; or a personal favourite, the night he ended up gibbering into a guitar on the roof of the Buckley Tivoli while chasing Oasis round the UK on their barnstorming '94 UK assault. His love of the bottle, the crack pipe and pretty much everything else didn't cost him his life, but it did stop The Lemonheads fulfilling their destiny as the greatest pop group ever to walk the Earth.
Of course, the packed-out Empire would disagree. Played tonight in its entirety as part of the Don't Look Back series, their 1992 nearly-breakthrough 'It's A Shame About Ray' is one of the great, fat-free slices of pop perfection of its age, turning in sturdy power-pop ('Confetti'), blissed-out folk ('My Drug Buddy') and kitchen sink mini-drama ('Alison's Starting To Happen').
It's a moment to see it live, and age has given a new depth to Dando's vocals and his cheekbones are still intact. Plus, with it being so short (at 29 minutes), we get a bumper encore of everything from a cover of ex-Monkee Mike Nesmith's 'Different Drum' to the sublime simplicity of 'Into Your Arms'. Tonight Dando makes an exceptional case that he should be remembered as fondly as Cobain and, with a new album planned, he hasn't quite used all his chances up yet.
Like all the greatest pop moments, before there's even time to pick yet further holes in the embarrassment of riches on display, it's over. So yes, The Lemonheads really should have been enormous and Evan was a bad boy. But he'll always be one of the good guys.
OLD FOLKS CORNER 1
Who: The Lemonheads
Then: Pretty-boy '90s alt-poppers lead by famously 'wayward' trustafarian Evan Dando. Moved from being dodgy Boston hardcore band to genuine teen pin-ups after cover of Simon & Garfunkel's 'Mrs Robinson' made Top Of The Pops. Dando's predeliction for what can euphemistically be called 'the odd ale' was their undoing and they split in 1996 after Dando spent most of the previous year hanging about with Oasis looking trampy.
Now: Back! Back! Back! Dando and two other people that weren't actually in The Lemonheads the first time are touring again. Grown women swoon.
Buy: 1992's breezy 'It's A Shame About Ray'.
Why you should care: Because he's hot and the songs are catchy.
WHAT YOU THOUGHT
"It was pretty special hearing all those songs again. And Evan doesn't look as though he's aged a day"!
Mike Gannon, Tottenham.