at UEA, Norwich
5th October 2006
Review by Matt Tomiak from Rock Feedback
Let’s get one thing straight from the start: ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’, The Lemonheads’ 1992 breakthrough LP, is a classic. Fifteen years on, it’s probably safe to afford it the status of bona-fide, copper-bottomed, all killer no filler pop tour de force. A ‘Pet Sounds’ for Generation X-ers, if you will.
But just as the symphonic pop glaze of Brian Wilson’s magnum opus often masks an altogether darker interior, so did darker elements lurk beneath Evan Dando’s sunny musical facade. Just like the sweet-on-the-outside, sour-on-the-inside candy from which The Lemonheads take their name, Dando’s genius is evident in the luminous, shimmering pop shells in which were enclosed a nagging, persistent existential melancholy.
Alas, a discernibly sparse attendance is evident at the opening of the band’s UK tour, prompting suggestions the show might have been better suited to the city’s more intimate Waterfront venue. A markedly mature clientele also hints that The Lemonheads’ eponymous new album may not have crossed over to younger listeners. Not surprising, though, given The Lemonhead’s frustratingly mercurial career trajectory. Nevertheless, Dando, clad in the time-honored grunge uniform of long-sleeve striped T-shirt, jeans and battered sneakers, is on fine form. Grinning from beneath an unruly mop of hair and recounting an anecdote about a previous trip to Norwich in which he had to seek refuge in a ‘Magic Chef….uh, no wait…. Little Chef. You know you’re safe in a Little Chef…’, Dando seems peculiarly reminiscent of the affable slacker Spicoli from the US teen movie classic ‘Fast Times At Ridgemont High.’
‘Bit Part’ and ‘Alison’s Starting To Happen’ open the immaculately preserved time-capsule of nimble vintage pop-punk, whilst the lovely, pensive pair of ‘Ride With Me’ and (over fifteen years its senior) ‘Become The Enemy’ see Dando contemplating maturity is a lesson in growing old gracefully. A delirious ‘Confetti’ – a salute to an uncompromising stance in matters of the heart and one of the most effortlessly brilliant pop songs of modern times – inevitably provides the evening’s biggest singalong.
So maybe, despite the frequent brushes with brilliance, Dando is reconciled to a place in the footnotes of modern rock history. Pah. The kids don’t know what they’re missing…