Words Iain McClay / Photography John Hayhurst
Let’s not start with the obvious question of ‘Why haven’t the Lemonheads been a bigger band than they are remembered?’
Stylus is an excellent venue, plenty of good viewing positions and a decent sized area in front of the stage with good acoustics, which combined with reasonable bar prices for a venue made this a great place to be.
The band wandered onto the stage about 9pm without any fanfare, I think some of the audience hadn’t realised they were there until they started playing!
The approach they took was to lay down an overwhelming barrage of songs, firing out songs after song into the audience with the seeming attempt of bludgeoning them into submission. Any General would have been proud of the shock and awe felt in the audience. I lost count of how many songs they played when they went over 30! I began to wonder if they were going to draw a breath at any point. The fact that one member of the band appears to be slowly morphing into Philip Seymour Hoffman did give it a slightly surreal feel, but this was a case of feel both the quality and the quantity!
There was no need for that approach, welcome as it was, when you have as many quality songs as the Lemonheads – the music speaks for itself (which was just as well as it took Evan Dando 40 minutes before he asked the room “How are you doing?” – that’s the equivalent of a full length album for this band and after that he didn’t engage a huge amount).
Unfortunately, the mixing for the first three songs wasn’t fantastic, Evan’s voice was buried a bit in the music, it made me worried that this was going to be a gig that didn’t do this excellent band full justice
Then they played It’s a Shame About Ray and it all came good. From that point on, aside from a feedback issue which was taken in their stride, it was a masterclass in gigging. It was also nice to see the lead singer of the support act at the side of the stage bouncing along.
What’s really impressive is that Evan’s voice is still a high-quality instrument. On the slow songs especially, it soared to levels that combined fragility, beauty and power into something really, really special. Somewhere in heaven Hank Williams and all the other country greats were lamenting the fact that Evan didn’t find his way to the Grand Ole Opry in his youth. It was clear last night that if he’d chosen it as a path he could have been one of the great country voices of his generation.
My own personal favourite part of the gig was when the band went down to a two piece for a number of songs, given how good Evan’s voice still is this was a fantastic section. Alison’s Starting to Happen in acoustic form was a particular highlight for me but they were all excellent.
When Evan can sing this well and the band are this tight you can’t ask for any more, if you haven’t seen The Lemonheads live and can still get a ticket buy it now, don’t hesitate!