Billed as Evan Dando (The Lemonheads), I didn’t really know what to expect from this gig. A solo performance? A full band? The tour was arranged to support the reissue of his solo record Baby I’m Bored for Record Store Day, so would it be a run through of this album with the odd other hit thrown in? I had no idea. Dando is a bit of a riddle wrapped in an enigma anyway: on the cusp of becoming the golden boy of 90’s indie pop he deliberately derailed his image and shrank away from the limelight. In the intervening years he’s released just the odd record, each of them very firmly reiterating that he’s just going to do whatever it is he feels like doing, when he feels like doing it.
As a result, I wasn’t surprised to see only about two hundred hard core fans there, most of them around my age (mid forties) with the odd younger hipster thrown into the mix. But intimate is good, I like intimate. When he took to the stage, I had at least one of my questions answered: this was going to be a solo acoustic set. Again, fine by me. What he then proceeded to deliver, however, was a little unexpected. For an hour he essentially just barrelled through about twenty five songs from his back catalogue, both Lemonheads and solo material. No nonsense, no messing about, just song after song after song. He gave us precisely three seconds to applaud before launching into the next one. It was just relentless, in a good way. It felt less like a formal concert and more like being at Dando’s house for a few beers while he got the guitar out and played. You could almost imagine him thinking ‘oh yeah, I did this one as well, let’s play that next’. It was incredible.
He made the odd misstep here and there, restarting a couple of songs when he messed up the opening chords, and he treated his stuff with a refreshing sense of irreverence, sometimes ending with a deliberately stupid final note or just abandoning the songs when he couldn’t be bothered playing out the final chord sequences. I know that probably sounds a bit irritating, but honestly, it wasn’t. It gave his performance a kind of charm that I’ve never seen before. And the approach fit his lo-fi, almost slackerish music perfectly.
The thing that struck me most during this first section was just how great his songwriting is. Hearing all those songs back to back that way, every one of them so different from the last, every one of them so melodic and catchy with cool and sometimes funny lyrics, it was a proper revelation. ‘Rudderless’, ‘Into Your Arms’, ‘Alison’s Starting to Happen’, ‘It’s a Shame About Ray’. People talk about Dylan, Brian Wilson, John Lennon, this guy is, in my opinion, right up there with the best. Just amazing.
After a very short break, he returned to the stage with the singer he performs with in The Sandwich Police and slowed things down a little bit with a few covers, a few Sandwich Police songs, and what sounded (could it be?) like some new material. He apologised for being ‘a bit rusty’ having only landed in the UK that morning and having not played live for a little while, and it’s fair to say that this second section sounded a bit rougher than the first. It was good, it was interesting, but yeah, the duets with Marciana Jones were maybe a little under rehearsed. It hardly mattered though, it was Evan Dando being Evan Dando. Not something that would be to everyone’s taste, but for me, a brilliant experience.