Lemonheads live at Somerset House, London -16th July 2006
Review by Mat Snow from The Guardian
A friend of Johnny Depp, godfather to a grand-daughter of Keith Richards, and deemed the sexiest man alive by People magazine in 1993, Lemonhead-in-chief Evan Dando fell from grace in spectacularly over-medicated fashion, culminating in the rare accolade of being booed from the Glastonbury stage for a two-hour tardiness - he subsequently excused himself on the grounds of being unavoidably detained in bed with a pair of celebrity lesbians and a bag of heroin.
Addictions to class A drugs and hanging out with heavy friends had collapsed his standing and reduced his output to a trickle until marriage to English model Elizabeth Moses and witnessing 9/11 from his apartment two blocks away restored his sense of purpose. Tonight a full house of grunge nostalgists and curious cult-seekers cheer the visiting Bostonian to a rare encore in Sir William Chambers' noble quadrangle.
There is a time mid-set when he dispenses with his pace-setting rhythm section (bassist Josh Lattanzi and drummer John Kent) and you are reminded of Billy Bragg. A Billy Bragg, that is, who resembles a horse in Brian Jones-style matelot shirt, shaking Silvikrin hair in hallowed Ozzy/Neil Young style, ecstatic in the windsock of rock.
Vamping his trebly Fender Telecaster for well over an hour without changing the tone setting, Dando delights in a wilfully rank amateurism; it takes a special kind of dedication to be this basic when you have been playing the instrument for longer than Jimi Hendrix lived.
Yet his songs, many of the best co-written with Tom Morgan of Australian rockers Smudge, cry out for a far more sensitive treatment. Rudderless, My Drug Buddy, The Outdoor Type, Why Do You Do This to Yourself?, Being Around and It's a Shame About Ray are masterpieces of the three-chord trick, tunes that make the heart wistful. Their truths of romance right or wrong, youth's long sunset and the nostalgia you feel for languidly wasted time even as you are wasting it tap into that Brideshead Revisited mood with rare poignancy.
Dando does not flatter himself in identifying with the country-rock golden boy Gram Parsons. Yet he fails to do full justice to those talents as a writer and singer (albeit one who could use a decongestant and a more disciplined approach to pitch, as on his botched cover of Neil Young's Powderfinger).
Having come of age musically as 1980s hardcore punk morphed into grunge, Dando refuses to budge from the comfort zone of ersatz energy making do for craft and detail, as if bringing out a song's nuances is somehow uncool compared with just hammering through. Though nearly 40, it's not too late to stop slacking, but will he learn?