From his first appearance on stage wearing a worn hooded sweatshirt with the words “Grow Local” emblazoned on the back, all the way to his final mumbled thank you at the end of the night, Evan Dando leader of ‘90s alt-rockers the Lemonheads was the undisputed star of the Paradise City Saturday.
Though reports from earlier in the week had many wondering if the former poster-boy of alternative music had lost his way, Dando and his band featuring guitarist Josh Lattanzi (The Candles) and drummer Brian Nolan (American Hi-Fi) wasted little time in putting such fears to rest at the Pearl Street Nightclub.
After wandering out to greet an already restless crowd at half past 10, Dando and company barely made any sort of greeting before quickly diving in to the night’s promised entertainment – the playing of the entire seminal 1992 album It’s A Shame About Ray.
Kicking off what would turn out to be an hour-long appearance with the one-two punch of “Rockin’ Stroll” and “Confetti,” few pauses were made between songs. And apart from a few microphone and amplifier adjustments, the group moved efficiently through the record’s track listing – a feat that was reportedly next to impossible just a few months earlier.
While Dando showed visible strain in attempting to hit the high notes of his youth (rumor has it he blew out his voice earlier on tour), he still ably commanded the room even after dismissing the rest of the band before closing Ray with a solo take on his cover of “Frank Mills” from the musical Hair.
Still barely pausing between numbers, a short solo acoustic set soon followed with takes on “The Outdoor Type” from 1996’s Car Button Cloth and “Being Around” from 1993’s Come On Feel the Lemonheads each winning over the crowd with their self-effacing charm.
Unfortunately after bringing the band back to the stage Dando put a damper on the crowd’s freshly-earned optimism by announcing, “We’re only going to do a few more for you. I can’t hear shit.”
Sound problems had been the ongoing story of the night before the Lemonheads appearance, but even after full-ensemble run-throughs of “The Great Big No,” “Style” and a handful of other tunes, the gathered crowd stood firm and cheered wildly for their fill of ‘90s nostalgia to continue.
And surprisingly Dando obliged. In fact, after removing his guitar and wishing everyone a good night he barely took a few steps off stage before returning for a solo-performed encore that included numbers “Divan” and “My Idea.”
Yet in the end, perhaps the most fitting tune Dando played near the end of the show was the seemingly Hank Williams inspired “Why Do You Do This To Yourself?” The track’s melancholy title is repeated numerous times through a mere three verses, and looking at times exhausted and depressed during his performance, the Lemonheads’ singer was living proof of every word he uttered. But for those who were in attendance the answer to the song was simple.
Musician Mike Watt once said, “If you ain’t playing, you’re paying.” And in more aquatic terms, if a shark stops swimming the animal dies. For artists like Dando, the same logic remains true.
He plays to live and lives to play. And for lifelong fans and newcomers alike, we wouldn’t have him any other way.
Watch video of the Lemonheads opening their Pearl Street show with the song “Rockin’ Stroll” off of the album It’s A Shame About Ray here:
Earlier in the night, Brooklyn-based four-piece the New York Rivals started their half-hour set a half-hour behind schedule. While the group showcased an at-times impressive mix of dynamic punk and hard rock, a litany of sound problems including a broken guitar string and various microphone malfunctions stilted their overall momentum. Still, the band finished their last night on tour strong with singer Josh Moran sometimes cupping his hands around his mouth to be heard above the din.
Later, second act on stage the Shining Twins provided a sloppy 20 minute set consisting of simply-executed punk and garage rock numbers. Drummer Marisa Kreiss played a unique stand-up kit, while bassist and vocalist Alex Weiss sang repeated odes to dumb boys, “good sluts” and even serial killer Ted Bundy. Weis also got her first chance to play guitar live on stage as regular guitarist Kenny Elkin missed the show due to illness, and another stand-in was only able to learn a handful of songs in the minutes directly preceding the gig.
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