This one sold out within days of being announced, and having actually seen Dando in Boston recently, I a) wasn't surprised, and b) didn't hang around with getting the tix! So, taking time off work, Rachel and I booked a hotel (covering tomorrow's Emetrex gig as well!), taking a train up the Smoke and grabbing some shopping and a Thai meal before the gig. Crispy duck, yum...
Joined the queue at 7.30 prompt, and got in pretty quickly, getting a good vantage point near the front and pretty much staying there all night! Baby Ben Kweller took the stage just after 8.30, the former lead singer of Radish still a very youthful slip of a lad. Ben's solo slot was a rambunctious affair, with lots of oomph, passion and foot-stomping throughout. The songs themselves veered from well-constructed grungy pop - a little like Radish, in fact - to some corny country, and one appallingly bad number about travelling to Texas to visit his sick mom and worrying about his girlfriend behind (!). A bit uneven, but a well-delivered set with Ben's nervous energy well to the fore.
Next up; Ben Lee. A name I was vaguely familiar with but no more, and I don't think I was expecting the hirsute yet pitifully young (again!) waif who took the stage. What happened next, though, was a revelation. A clutch of superbly constructed numbers delivered with soul and power from this diminutive Australian boy genius, a lovely opener "Nothing Else Happens" setting the tone for the rest of the performance. I'd never really heard of the guy much before, but I'm going to know more, hunting down a couple of his CDs in Soho the next day for starters! Varying between deliciously touching and splendidly uplifting, this was a very fine set, and Ben 2 won the battle of the Bens tonight!
Evan was next up, spot on time, kicking off with a superbly delivered "Its A Shame About Ray". Once again, Evan's performance was utterly exemplary; the voice superb, strident and pure, the guitar note-perfect, the songs delivered acoustically and once again showing themselves for the laconic pop diamonds they truly are. Evan himself was in more voluble mood that in Harvard in October; "for anyone who was at Glastonbury in 1995, I'm sorry I didn't make the show," was a surprise, and a revealing confession from a man much more at ease with himself than the media-haunted and pharmaceutically-challenged "Dippy Dando" of yore. And the performance reflected it. Relaxed, he delivered brilliantly, drawing heavily from the country-tinged grungy pop periods of "Ray" and follow-up "Come On Feel The Lemonheads", with the fun, quirky little gems of "Divan" and "Being Around" highlights. A brilliant "Great Big No" revealed the reverence in which Dando is held, with the sold-out crowd filling in the "whoh oh oh" harmonies, and a touching "Frank Mills", sung in full by the audience, was my personal highlight.
Evan was joined by both Bens for the encore, before, once again solo, he delivered a great "Stove", burbled on about David and Victoria Beckham (?), then played a spoof "Feel Good Hit Of The Summer" ("Nicorette, Listerene, Head and Shoulders, Albasam, c-c-c-c-c-Colgate!!") before calling it a night. The perfect voice, the perfect showman; another brilliant Evan Dando evening!