My 9th Lemonheads show (and 15th overall Dando sighting, counting his solo forays), once again in the company of one of my rock icons, a sprawling languid genius seemingly rediscovering his appetite for music, following encouragement from his new wife. New self-titled album was evidence of this; the upbeat punchy nature nevertheless harked back to the easy melody of his halcyon early 90s. A return to form - would the live show be the same?
Our carfull hit the road at 6.15 for this early Saturday nighter, held up only by some dickhead driver arguing his right-of-way outside the Academy itself! Indications from the website were that this tour had been sparsely attended thus far, and this seemed the case early on, while very poor support the 747s were peddling their mockney meets The Coral pop. Quirky doesn't mean sounding like Chas'n'Dave, or like shite fairground barrel organs, boys!
However the place was packed by the time The Lemonheads strolled nonchalantly onstage at 9, by which time we'd secured a good viewing spot at the top of the steps, stage left. Evan had again turned the personnel revolving doors, and this "Lemonheads" touring configuration consisted of 2 members of former Dando solo support The Pieces. So no Josh Lattanzi - boo! Initially, it was a slow one - a thin sound hampered opener "Down About It", and it took until 3rd number "Confetti" for the audience to respond with a jumpabout mosh. Thereafter, we got a typical Dando performance - often skirting with utter genius, occasionally playing the slacker card a little too often (a few too many droney and bum notes for my liking) but always watchable and entertaining. Often it seemed as if he was playing to an audience of one (himself), building the set up with a half-dozen "Shame About Ray" dancefloor faves, then slowing it down with a nevertheless stunning "Ride With Me". Perverse, but what do you expect? The backing was poor though - the Pieces boys were competent at best, and often shoddy, and Dando carried them throughout.
50 minutes of US college slacker rock, easy and cheesy, was followed by the band (thankfully?) taking a hike, for a solo Evan to hit a battered acoustic and run through such as "Being Around", "The Outdoor Type" and a stunning "Stove". Brilliant stuff and the best part of the set by some distance. We had the band back for a sloppy, off-kilter "Shame About Ray", then the highlight of the night - just Evan again for first encore "Frank Mills", tender and sing-along. That should have been it really, but the band came back for an unexpected punk run-through of oldie "Hate Your Friends" before "If I Could Talk I'd Tell You" rounded off a very variable and uneven, but occasionally brilliant 1 1/2 hour performance. So, return to form? Well, kind of, sort of... what you'd expect really, from this laid-back slacker genius Dando!