at the Voodoo Lounge at Harrah's, St. Louis
13th December 2007
Review by Jason Green from Playback
The stunning nineteen perfectly-played songs crammed into just 50 minutes amounted to one of the greatest concerts I have ever witnessed in my life...and then it all turned to shit.
Evan Dando reuniting the Lemonheads after nearly a decade in limbo should have been more than enough reward by itself, but after witnessing the band's semi-triumphant return to St. Louis in February of 2007, I couldn't help but wish for more next time around. Namely...
1. That Dando wait a whole lot less than a decade before bringing the Lemonheads back to St. Louis.
2. That next time, they play pretty much anywhere other than the Voodoo Lounge. Not to hate on Harrah's Casino, as they constructed a beautiful room there, but its bizarre stage-on-top-of-the-bar set-up is just not conducive creating the rock concert vibe.
3. That Karl Alvarez and Bill Stevenson—of the Descendents and All fame, also known as one of the best punk rock rhythm sections ever—come on tour. Vess Ruhtenberg and Devon Ashley (of the Pieces) made a fine backing band, but they really couldn't compete with what Alvarez and Stevenson threw down on the Lemonheads' 2006 comeback record.
4. That either "Into Your Arms" or "Mrs. Robinson" make the setlist. Yeah, I know they're covers, but they're great covers.
5. That Dando find a way to leave the stage without looking like a petulant asshole. The February show ended with him leaving the stage in a pretend huff just seconds into a song, leaving a confused crowd clapping well after the house music came up in a vain hope he'd return. It was all an act, and an irritating one, and surely he could come up with something better, right?
Well, as you can see from the heading alone, Dando Claus had at least some of those goodies in his big red bag, bringing the Lemonheads back for an early Christmas less than a year after their last visit...to the Voodoo Lounge (sigh...) but with Karl and Bill in tow and "Into Your Arms" slipped into the setlist. It was poised to be one of the greatest concerts of the year, and it was...until those final few minutes when Dando once again decided to ruin what should have been a sure thing.
First the good stuff: the first 45 minutes were pretty much the perfect Lemonheads concert. Starting with the squealing first seconds of the set's second song "No Backbone," it was clear Dando was absolutely on fire that night, sliding rapid fire bursts of flawless guitar solos into virtually every song. His playing was incendiary, helped by a setlist that played to the band's strengths by leaning heavily on the band's short-and-sweet up-tempo pop nuggets. The pace rarely slowed down, save for the half-country death song/half-dinosaur rock "Baby's Home" and the classic "My Drug Buddy."
Though Dando's playing took off immediately, Alvarez and Stevenson seemed a bit sluggish in early songs, but they shook it off in short order. By the time the blistering punk rocker "Bit Part" entered six songs in, they were firing on all cylinders and rarely let up. Stevenson in particular was a beast behind his kit, especially on the one-two punch of "Alison's Starting To Happen" and "Rudderless" that closed out the full band set. This night, the Lemonheads accomplished the seemingly impossible, starting off their set with some of their strongest rockers yet somehow increasing the energy level with every subsequent song. And yes, "Into Your Arms" slipped its way into the setlist, and it was downright mind-numbing in its amazing-ness.
The trio left the stage for mere seconds before Dando returned with an electric guitar for a brief solo set. His voice sounded fantastic in front of the full band, but only stood out more so in this setting. After opening to big applause with "The Outdoor Type," Dando sped through four more songs, mushing "Luka," "Being Around," and "My Idea" into a medley and ending on a low key note with "All My Life." Pairing the blistering opening set with the down-tempo closer was the perfect combo, and the stunning nineteen perfectly-played songs crammed into just 50 minutes amounted to one of the greatest concerts I have ever witnessed in my life.
...and then it all turned to shit. Dando left the stage for about ten seconds before returning to the mic and singing some ad-libbed lyrics—"We've got an hour contract / We played about 45 minutes / You're gonna have to deal with me"—as he clanged out chords on his guitar. A few excruciating seconds later, he whined "There's an hour!", throwing his guitar down and leaving the stage in a huff.
Shortly thereafter, Dando begrudgingly returned to the stage with Alvarez and Stevenson in tow. Addressing the crowd for the first time, Alvarez joked "You look so small down there," but it was clear Dando was in no mood to laugh. "I'm never playing in this motherfucking joint again!" he declared before leading the band through a two-song encore that ended the show exactly 60 minutes after it started.
If them never playing that joint again means never having to witness the pathetic spoiled-brat rockstar shenanigans that marred those final two songs, then yes, Evan, please stay as far away from the Voodoo Lounge as you can. The results weren't pretty: though the band sounded fine in those final two songs, Dando seemed less concerned with his playing than he was with kicking over the stage equipment, apparently thinking that taking his frustrations out on the poor roadie who just wanted the guitar amp to not be lying face down accomplished some sort of victory. It was sad to watch, and a disappointing end that completely ruined what had been an amazing experience.
The show at least started out on a high note with Raccoon. The Dutch band's opening set was a mellow delight, packed with breezy acoustic numbers from their latest album Another Day. Singer Bart Van Der Weide has a clean, sonorous voice—halfway between Live's Ed Kowalczyk and Tool's Maynard James Keenan, although the band sounds like neither—and an aw-shucks stage demeanor that proved the perfect set-up for the Lemonheads' show. Now if only Evan Dando hadn't spoiled the mood...