Live review: The Lemonheads 2014

You know when you forget how good something is? You have that moment of thinking, gee why did I ever doubt it? That was kinda sorta the case when Mr 90’s alternahunk himself Evan Dando returned to our shores this week with a full band in tow to remind everyone of how clever he really is.

Google Evan Dando {or Ev as I like to think of him} and what you’ll find are lots of references to his drug use {past and current}, a hit and miss reputation when it comes to live shows, and some complete interview disasters. So I Google, I read, and then I get nervous. I see pictures of Ev looking all grizzly-mountain-man complete with flannel shirts and grey beard, and I wonder why I never had a crush on him back in the day when he was a total babe. But, being hubby’s favourite singer, there’s no thought of not going to see him, so I buy tickets and get all excited just the same.

Being the diehard fans we are we once again headed back to Melbourne for a lightning quick twenty-four hour pit stop, just long enough to enjoy a nice dinner and the show. {Speaking of dinner, Bar Lourinha is amazeballs. Delicious tapas and sublime margarita’s while sitting at the bar in a so-hip-it-hurts little restaurant. I highly recommend it.} Reliably informed by Twitter friends that Ev and band sounded amazing I was looking forward to it, and just like last time, Ev came out among the punters to watch the opening act, Jen Cloher and band {with Courtney Barnett on guitar}, who were awesome. I’ve had a couple of Jen’s albums on my iPod for a while but they never really grabbed me, if you know what I mean. Live though, she rocked. I tossed up asking Ev for a photo but hate to bother people when they’re enjoying live music so I skipped it.

The Lemonheads eventually took to the stage amid much cheering, showing yet again how much Australia loves Evan. Whether solo, paired up with Juliana Hatfield, or with a band, he always gets a warm welcome. Not surprising considering how much time he spends here I suppose. Right from the start, kicking things off with a handful of solo acoustic numbers, Evan seemed to be enjoying himself. Not as much maybe as the last time I saw him with Juliana, but he was definitely all smiles. Soon the band came out and I cannot even begin to describe how good it was to hear the songs played with a full band, nice and loud. Some I was hearing for the first time live. Songs that are beautifully crafted examples of clever songwriting, his trademark upbeat pop hooks wrapped around sometimes dark themes and lyrics. Whatever he may or may not have been on {and who cares anyway}, the man delivered.

Let me tell you my theory about Evan. He lets you think he’s somewhat of a bimbo. He gives interviews where, with sometimes shocking honesty, he discusses his drug use in uncompromising detail. He can be random, unpredictable. Factor in the many reports floating around the internet of bad shows and his unreliability and it’s easy to dismiss him as a has-been, washed up and of no great talent. But here’s the thing: I have never seen him deliver a bad show. I have instead seen a man whose guitar seems to be an extension of himself, who can reach for a wide variety of songs, his own and covers, and perform them with feeling and conviction. His voice is beautiful. The other night, watching him with an electric guitar, I was reminded that he is also a fucking good guitarist too, something which is barely ever acknowledged.

And here’s my own little hunch: I think he really loves Australia. Like, really loves it. With him being such a frequent visitor for over two decades there has grown a mutual fondness. He has become one of our own, an adopted honorary Aussie. {And let’s be honest, I’d much rather Ev over Tom Cruise, who some in the media took to calling “our Tom” when he was married to Nicole Kidman.} And I think that for those reasons he brings us his A game.

So if you can, get along and see him. There are only a couple more shows in Australia then two in New Zealand {though I have everything crossed for another “secret” last minute show like he did last time}, but if you can, GO. And if you’re like me and hubby and of a certain vintage that came of age in the fuzzy flannel shirt days of the nineties and dismissed Dando as nothing more than a pretty face, then you really need to go. The man sings the songs that were the soundtrack to those years, and are a warm reminder of what it was to be young and carefree. He has become something of a modern day troubadour, traveling the road seemingly constantly, singing songs of love and life armed with not much more than an acoustic guitar.

In short: Evan Dando rocks.

Here are a couple of videos from the Melbourne show. The first is my video of Evan singing one of his most popular and loved songs, one written by the supremely talented Aussie musician and long time Dando friend and collaborator Tom Morgan {of Smudge and most recently Bambino Koresh}, “The Outdoor Type.” The second was filmed by Jen Cloher, and is of Courtney Barnett joining Evan to sing another crowd favourite, “Being Around.”

*Evan and Juliana review December 2012.

12 Thoughts

  1. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH I love Evan so hard!! This was my 6th time seeing him and I must say it was one of the best! There were some sketchy shows over the years, but my god, this really made me cry with happiness, as I was the kid that loved him (them) in the 90s.
    Great review Ana and great meeting you there 🙂 xo

    1. First of it was lovely to meet you too, and it was such a good show. Maybe I’m lucky having missed the duds? I was like, whatever, back at their peak, I’m a bit weird like that and have to just decide on something in my own sweet time!

      Btw, SO jealous of your photo! Xxx

  2. Bravo! Excellent review and so glad you and your husband had a great time. I’ve seen him on and off since ’93 and I think he sounds better now than ever. And extra kudos to Chris Brokaw, Todd Philips, and Farley Glavin for making him sound that much better. They’re a brilliant band and Evan’s an under appreciated national treasure. Go see their remaining gigs for this year–you won’t be disappointed.

    1. Barb you were spot on, they sounded tight and not like a backing band at all. I’ve seen quite a few shows and this was probably my favourite with a band, but him and Juliana two years ago was awesome, really fun and playful. And definitely under appreciated.

  3. F’en awesome review Ana. He really is a musical genius he needs the confidence to go with it–I don’t get how anybody can watch him do something like “Frying Pan” live and not convert. I’m tired of the same old articles about him. Even when they add something positive it goes back to the same old shit and I’m so bored with that. It always seems like some random music reporter got the job of attempting an interview and maybe briefly skimmed the Evan Dando wikipedia. I get that if he’s performed poorly or been offensive a lot that information will circulate, which it has, and people will lose respect and interest in seeing him, they don’t return the next time, the crowds get smaller but when he’s fantastic it’s never celebrated much, never in bold and your review does him some justice in that way. Fingers crossed I can see him play sometime next year especially with this lineup I keep hearing good things about. What songs did he play that were new to you hearing live?
    Love your photos & video<3 Love love love this article.

    To Ev! (wait, it's not so natural when I try it, I should stick with calling him Dando!)

    1. Just today there was a review in the Sydney Morning Herald which was really shit, made me want to smack the reviewer upside the head. Evan deserves a lot of credit for his songwriting and musicianship.

      1. Reading now. Written by someone clueless as to WHAT IS UP, since when is “Different Drum” “understandably left out”, maybe he didn’t play it at that particular show but he seems to almost always play it based on my recent experiences & the youtube videos I’ve watched(thank you youtubers!)
        I’m not nitpicking or am I? I don’t care, don’t write an article that makes you sound like you want readers to think you know the band’s history but also reveals you totally don’t know their history, right?

        As for the maybe he’s just doing it too long comment, well….what else is he going to do? Come work with me at a department store? He has to play.

        1. I don’t think anyone who expects to hear Mrs Robinson and doesn’t know that they do not play it has a clue about Evan or the band. And you’re right, he plays Different Drum a lot.

          And yes, what else is he going to do, and thank goodness he still tours. He definitely has a lot to offer and he always sells out most shows here so obviously people want to see him.

          1. Yeah what the hell, The “Mrs. Robinson” mention=red flag. Honestly I can’t read one more freaking article that mentions him not aging I will rip my eyeballs out and throw them at the computer.

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