Hands up who remembers the nineties? Great, weren’t they? It took two hands to hold your mobile phone and your home computer weighed as much a pregnant cow. Howling good times. I’ll tell you who else remembers the nineties…the good people of Wolverhampton who came out on a Wednesday night to see the head Lemonhead, Evan Dando. The twenty-something students who bought “It’s a Shame About Ray” in 1992 are now forty-something middle managers, with enough disposable income to buy the coffee table vinyl and book edition of Evans new album “Baby I’m Bored” and still have enough cash left for a taxi home. How times have changed.
Annoyingly, Dando hasn’t. He still has that louche, artfully dishevelled look that attracted the ladies and intimidated the men twenty-five years ago. He sloped onstage looking slightly bemused and after a few tentative strums on his acoustic guitar, we were off. In quick succession, Dando romps through a selection of Lemonheads tune and tracks from his solo album without pausing for breath. It must be ten or eleven songs into the set before he even stops to say “hello”. His playing is a little loose – sometimes he has to squint at the fretboard to check he’s still in key and he often stops strumming to scoop his hair from his face, which is not the kind of behaviour that would get you the lead guitar chair in Dream Theater, Mr Dando. The songs all hold up to being played on just one instrument – from “The Outdoor Type” to “All My Life”, the hits just keep on comin’ – and they sound great. We get some cover versions too – lots of covers. He whips out a charmingly ragged version of Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know”, followed by the trucking anthem “Six Days on the Road”, which sort of encapsulates Dando’s own songwriting ethic – quality Pop and a Country twang.
And on we go. “Big Gay Heart”, Tenderfoot”, “Bit Part” and a host of others follow. A good time is had by all with Dando showing no signs of stopping. He then brings on stage Marciana Jones who adds her voice to handful of tunes. And this is where it starts to get a little messier. It’s obvious that not a lot of rehearsal has been done by the duo recently and the wobbles start…the Jayhawks “Settle Down Like Rain” takes a while to sound confident, but “My Drug Buddy” and a charming cover of the Velvet’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror” get things back on track – sort of. By now, Evan is beginning to resemble the guy at every party who finds the acoustic guitar and starts strumming through his repertoire, until eventually he’s the last man standing. Evan has to stare harder at his book of lyrics to get through songs and the discords become more frequent. Even the diehards are shuffling from foot to foot, wondering if this is worth the overtime they’ll have to pay the babysitter. You can’t knock Mr Dando for wanting to give us value for money, but given that he’s a little rusty and probably jetlagged (the previous night’s concert in London had to be cancelled due to travel problems), maybe he should have stuck to the “less is more” approach.
It’s a sprint to the finish now – the PowerPop gem “Into Your Arms” is followed by an anthemic “It’s a Shame About Ray” and it’s nearly hometime. We get “Why Do You Do This Yourself” from his lovely new album and off he slouches – a sun-kissed surfer boy, landlocked in Wolverhampton.
Inevitably, the nineties will rear their ugly head again pretty soon. With Dando on tour and his former partner Juliana Hatfield with a new album out, the early signs are there. So, book early for the Silverchair reformation and the Krist ‘n’ Dave with Gavin Rossdale play “Nevermind” shows. But save some cash for the “Twenty-five Years of “Come On Feel The Lemonheads” Tour” next year. I’m kidding of course – but if that doesn’t happen, a solo Dando gig is worth the money. A word of warning – wear sensible shoes – you’re going to be standing up for a long time.