The Lemonheads review: frustrating journey in a grunge Tardis

Metro theatre, Sydney
Evan Dando delivers a set brimming with classics but leaves his fans wondering what might have been if he stopped pandering to them

Evan Dando cuts a shambling figure these days. No other word will do. His walk onto the stage at the Metro in Sydney is a shamble, his face hidden under a slouch and that familiar flaxen hair. He seems a long way from the indie pin-up of the 90s who fused perfect pop and jangly, sometimes, grungey guitars.

But despite his appearance, there is still an expectation from the crowd that he will be that same person. They have good reason to think so. On his Australian tour four years ago, Dando and his band, the Lemonheads, played the 1992 album, It’s A Shame About Ray, in its entirety, a fitting tribute to the fact that some of its songs were written here.

To the delight of those wanting more of the same, he doesn’t disappoint. There’s a slight tease when Dando starts out on his own with an acoustic rendition of Kitchen. He fires off two more of his classics – Being Around and Into Your Arms – and you wonder where he’s going with this. Softening us up for some new tunes perhaps? He’s not. The band marches on, crashes into a thumping version of Hospital, bringing a roar from the crowd and transporting us in a musical Tardis back to the 1990s.

And this is how it continues, Dando reminding us every three or four minutes that he was, back then, a songwriter of the greatest ability who had the world, and lots of fans, at his feet. How good, for example, is Down About It? Or Rudderless? It’s no surprise that by the time he plays My Drug Buddy, large groups of the crowd put their arms around each other, swaying and singing along in a kind of indie version of Wind of Change.

Stoned is another standout moment before the show ends quite abruptly with Alison’s Starting to Happen and the time machine returns us to the here and now of the twenty-teens. It’s been an enjoyable but frustrating experience.

Despite the odd gear shift, it’s all a bit one-paced and the song renditions lack the subtlety that made them so great in the first place. Worst of all is the sense that Dando could still be making great records if he put more faith in his talent, ditched the grunge and stopped pandering to the nostalgia of his fans.

Contributor

Martin Farrer

The GuardianTramp

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