Review of Lemonheads live at Shepherds Bush Empire, London
14th September 2005
By Michael Bonner from Uncut
Dando In The Underworld - Strumming stoner's rehab continues with rockin' stroll through It's A Shame About Ray.
The rehabilitation of Evan Dando continues apace. For a man who famously had more than a brush with fate in the mid-to-late '90s - drugs, booze, Courtney Love, playing tambourine for Oasis, name your poison - the poster boy for Generation X looks remarkably chipper these days, bouncing onto the stage, flashing big goofy smiles at the crowd. Having seen Lemonheads at Benicassim back in July - playing a set of strum-along classics on a balmy summer evening, just ahead of fellow grunge icons Dinosaur Jr - and here tonight, where in keeping with the brief for the Uncut-sponsored Don't Look Back season, he plays 1992's It's A Shame About Ray in its entirety. Evan seems on infectiously good-natured form.
The songs, though, are linked to a specific time period, closely associated with a particular demography, and you wonder whether they'll still stand up, or feel like postacards from another decade, exhibiting the same slightly quaint but dated qualities as an early Dougals Coupland novel or Ben Stiller's Gen X movie Reality Bites. There is, though, something pan-generational about the best of Evan's material that captures the shifting and formless no-man's land between college and job, adolesence and adulthood, where the eternal preoccupations of youth - sex, drugs, rock'n'roll - get their last blast, and the only dilemma worth losing sleep over is: "Don't wanna get stoned, but I don't wanna not get stoned."
With Evan are Descendants/Black Flag drummer Bill Stevenson and bassist Josh Lattanzi from Ben Kweller's band, who've been playing together since Dando quietly announced midway through this year that a new incarnation of Lemonheads was imminent, touring the summer festival circuit, these two sold-out dates for Don't Look Back being the band's first UK shows since 1997. The LP clocks in at a little under 30 minutes, each track a masterclass in less-is-more brevity - the joyful stomp of "Confetti" or the endearingly cute sentiment of "Bit Part", say, could comfortably figure with another verse or chorus. But the band rattle through all 12 tracks, each one a little burst of pure pop love. Evan only pausing to tell the audience he's "having fun".
The rest of the set - another half-hour's worth of material - finds Evan returning to play solo, slipping in covers of Mike Nesmith's "Different Drum" and Gram Parsons' "How Much I've Lied", before the band return to play songs from Lick, Lovey and Come On Feel The Lemonheads, the highlight being a euphoric version of "Into Your Arms". Songs only a misanthrope could fault.