It's always something with Evan Dando. One would be foolish or ill-informed to think that the Lemonheads front man could roll into town and perform without some kind of quirky melodrama taking place. A couple of years ago at the VooDoo Lounge, Dando attempted a short solo encore after a full-band Lemonheads set, only to throw down his guitar and walk off stage for no apparent reason. (Maybe the ridiculously tall stage there finally got to him.)
Last night's solo performance at Old Rock House was a different kind of diva-like display, though. It was a more subtle showing that probably didn't offend most people -- because perhaps it left them so stunned that they just walked away in a daze.Without even bothering to shed his winter coat, Dando plowed through 24 songs in just under 45 minutes.
Now, you might say, "What the hell is wrong with that? More bang for my buck, right?" But even though Dando held the attention of the crowd by blazing through several Lemonheads classics, the whole affair seemed rushed, inconsiderate and frankly just weird. Apart from a couple of quick "Thank you's" between song, the only words spoken by the singer were at the very end of the set, when he mumbled something about having a long drive that day and being a little worse for the wear.
However, it's not that the lanky, baritone singer-songwriter sounded rough, tired or out of sorts. Other than the virtual light-speed with which he blazed through the songs, the performance was actually quite good. Dando's low, rumbling voice has probably gotten better with age and only seemed strained on the higher notes of "Rudderless" from the 1992 classic album, It's a Shame About Ray.
Fittingly, another standout moments was the Ben Lee co-written tune "Hard Drive," from Dando's 2003 solo debut Baby I'm Bored. That song shimmered with sincerity and self-awareness, as did a great, stripped-down version of "No Backbone" from the Lemonheads' 2006 self-titled effort. It says a lot about Dando's songwriting skills that a song so dependent on lead guitar lines could stand just as well on its own in an acoustic arrangement.
In the end, it's hard to say that Dando's performance was lackluster and void of interesting moments or good song choices. But the rapid-fire song barrage felt ridiculous around song 12 and became downright annoying by song 24. Dando is doing a great job of remaining consistently unpredictable -- while being an effortless performer.
Set List: 1. Down About It 2. The Outdoor Type 3. Tenderfoot 4. Confetti 5. Why Do You Do This to Yourself? 6. Hannah and Gabi 7. Alison's Starting to Happen 8. My Drug Buddy 9. All My Life (Ben Lee) 10. Frying Pan 11. Hospital 12. When I Stop Dreaming 13. Style 14. Rudderless 15. ??? (Missed this one) 16. My Idea 17. It's About Time 18. Frank Mills 19. No Backbone (Tom Morgan) 20. Hard Drive (Ben Lee) 21. Ride With Me 22. The Turnpike Down 23. In the Grass All Wine Colored 24. If I Could Talk I'd Tell You