O2 Academy 2, B’ham.
I suppose my expectations were never set too high, given Evan Dando’s reputation, and, on that basis, I got my moneys worth. Overall I liked it, despite the chaotic and seeming unrehearsedness of the show, the atrocious sound balance and the often cluelessness as to what he was actually playing. (His? Mine? The band? The soundman? A little, perhaps, of each.) Yet, every so often, and tantalisingly randomly, the clouds parted and a song would emerge in an eye blinking fragile beauty. One such was the opener, Speed of the Sound of Loneliness, the sole contribution from Varshons 2, the release thereof being purportedly the rationale of the tour. Dando’s agreeable tenor has deepened a little, with the country-rock jangle of the band pitched just as you would imagine how Dando would tackle this standard, and I drew a sigh of relief. But this was clearly the lull, as there followed a storm of short and squally songs, some recognisable and some not, mainly emanating from the early Lemonheads songbook, guitars all ramped up to 11, feedback screeching, whether or not invited, both probably. Where discernible, memory kicked in to sweeten the melody: a terrific Shame About Ray being one such, where not, well, they were short. Loads of covers, albeit not either from Varshons 1 either, let alone those he has peppered into earlier records. Streets of Bakersfield, a country staple previously covered by Dando’s idol, Gram Parsons, came as a pleasant surprise, as did an angular and muscular Your Cheatin’ Heart. Many of the others I did not recognise, even after resorting to the reviewers friend, Setlist.com., nuggets from
little known (to me) Seattle grungsters seemingly quite frequent. A quite interlude of 5 or 6 songs came 2/3 in, Dando on acoustic, when he could get it to work, amid much cursing and abandonments, accompanied by veteran guitarist, Chris Brokaw. This could have been delightful, and sometimes was, spoilt, for me, by the choice of songs being a little thrown away, Being Around being one such. When it looked as possibly this was ending the show, Dando opening the backdoor of the stage, on ambled the other 2 band members for a few more thrashes. Maybe steam was running out, as Into Your Arms was crucified, this favourite of mine of his songs, hooted rather than sung. However this was offset by the audience taking over the singing of My Drug Buddy’s final few lines, prompted by Dando seeming to stumble on the words. He seemed genuinely touched and surprised. The end and a couple of songs to encore, no Big Gay Heart and no, perhaps a long shot, Mrs Robinson. But we did get a solo performance of RT’s Dimming of the Day, seemingly unperformed before, and played with some feeling to a largely unrecognising audience, ahead of the lights briskly coming up.
A mix. Well mixed age and sex-wise, myself, I guess, at the elder end. Couples remembering their courting days being serenaded by pretty boy Dando, many of whom left as the volume and feedback fermented, and groups of well-refreshed plaid shirt and beanie boys, moshing and singing down the front. Usual crap O2 bar and toilet experience.
It made me think..
Just how long has Dando got away with it? An undoubtedly endearing personality, a fine back catalogue and a huge and varied taste in what he covers, just when is he going to deliver some new? There is only so long a slacker and stoner image can remain viable and be enough. I would say he is on the cusp. Looking much as he ever did from the back of the hall, long mousey hair, a little grubby, in t shirt and stubble, goofy grin more imagined than delivered, closer up he looked more the picture of Dorian Gray, with the sort of raddled look of the schools favourite boy, glimpsed years later, giving a belated schadenfreude to us other overlooked and ugly guys. But I still hold the faith. I will buy Varshons 2, based on the sole representation tonight, and, yes, I would probably go see the band/him again, even if he is now less Evil Dildo and more Dodgy Dongle.