There are some people, in spite of their every effort and bad habits, that will never age a day. Evan Dando of the Lemonheads happens to be one of those people. If anything, Dando has aged like a fine wine even with his much-publicized affair with drugs, a marriage with a model that has recently ended, and a self-proclaimed lack of ambition. Dando is now 44 years old, separated from his wife, and living a sober(er) life post-alcoholism (though he still maintains he likes taking mushrooms on a monthly basis).
For those of you who were born post 1980, a lot of this will seem completely obscure. But for women in my age group, Dando was briefly the world’s biggest teen heartthrob in that ’93-’96 time frame, gracing the face of glossy magazines and rivaling Kurt Cobain (as some kind of golden-haired and sanitized version of grunge music) and Oasis in terms of legendarily copious drug use, supermodel bedding (and eventual marriage), and making all of the other girls swoon. I didn’t really pay too much attention to the Lemonheads after It’s a Shame About Ray, but remembering that melancholy time period of my life, I was busy following Morrissey’s career nosedive with Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted.
I wasn’t sure what to expect then, when Dando and his latest incarnation of “The Lemonheads” took stage in the latest in a string of “everything old is new again” one album tours. Touted as “Evan Dando and the Lemonheads perform It’s a Shame About Ray”, I was expecting this to be another in a series of stale cash grabs. This, after I’d sworn off all reunions–such wishy-washiness is pretty predictable from those with the ‘ol nostalgia bone. Dando took stage sporting a hoodie and good looks that seem not to have aged a day (and only then did I realize that at 44, he looks better than a 30-somethign Dan Cortez), a bassist that looked about 25, and a drummer.
Stiffly ripping through the set without pause, the packed and rowdy crowd certainly seemed to think he could do no wrong. He was egged on through his constant setlist glances and seemed unsure about which chords to play. Unless he was shoegazing, the memory could have been an issue here. There was one moment where he explained that they’d just restrung the guitar he was playing, which was not a good thing to do in retrospect, and certainly not right before a show. No matter, no one cared–everyone was just happy to hear the songs live again.
Skipping the tacked-on cover to Mrs. Robinson, Dando’s backing band was ushered offstage and he engaged everyone in a solo acoustic set, seeming to get more comfortable as he plugged along. This was an audience full of fans, he soon learned, and seemed genuinely touched that everyone knew the words to every song. The high moment came during Outdoor Type, when you could literally taste the palpable swooning of every woman in the room. Easing into things, Dando started to field requests from the audience, and boy were there a lot. Thankfully, only a couple of morons yelled for “Mrs. Robinson”, and were promptly ignored when he explained, pleaing for “a song we’ve written”.
The band came back on again to shoot out hits like “Into Your Arms”. Then the encore of solo acoustic followed with a continuation of a barrage of requests and ended after one song. I suppose Dando was tired at this point–and after an hour and a half on a Monday, I suspect many others were too.
Overall I’m just happy he made it through the set consistently. And that he’s still alive.