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Review of Evan Dando live at Troubadour, Hollywood CA
22nd April 2001

by Steven Mirkin from Variety 23rd April 2001

Despite being declared dead a few years ago, the modern pop song refuses to die, and nowhere was that more in evidence than at the Troubadour on Sunday. A few hundred music fans decided to tape "The Sopranos""The Sopranos" and spend the evening checking up on two distinctive songwriters, Evan Dando and Jon Brion, in solo perfs.

Dando, the former leader of the Lemonheads, was seemingly on the fast track to stardom in the early '90s, but various addictions derailed him and his career has yet to recover. But the chiseled features that made him an alt-rock pin-up, the sleepy vocals and gently lilting songs that combined country rock and pop were still very much in evidence.

It took Dando a while to hit his stride. Always something of a shy, if not regressive, figure onstage, Dando seemed unsure of himself in the early going.

Performing with eyes closed, Dando seemed lost, his guitar playing choppy, as if the parts weren't worked out, making even older Lemonheads material such as "The Outdoor Type" sound like works in progress, although one new song "Hard Drive" (which may or may not show up on his much-delayed, and still unfinished, solo album) was able to break through.

Things took a turn for the better when opening act Jon Brion bounded onstage. His appearance had the effect of waking Dando up, and the songs they co-wrote (including a Ray Davies-like country song called "Flat Broke Armed and Angry") were the highlights of the evening. Brion also added his vocals and ukulele to a languid version of "Into Your Arms" and "My Drug Buddy."

The change even carried over to the encore, where Dando performed a series of covers including Mike Nesmith's "Different Drum," "Frank Mills" (from "Hair") and a version of Alex Chilton's "The Ballad of El Goodo," which he interpolated with his own "Being Around."

In his own set, Brion showed that his combination of pop songcraft and vaudeville can be effective outside of the friendly confines of his weekly Largo gig. He performed his own off-beat cover (Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town" played on ukulele), took an audience request and played it in a different style (in this case, Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" done as a Les Paul instrumental) and even pulled someone out of the audience to accompany him on piano. It was as charming as ever, but in this context it would have been nice to hear more from his album "Meaningless" (Straight to Cut-Out/Artist Direct).

 

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