Prior to leaving for the Grog Shop Monday night, the number one question on my mind was which Evan Dando would should up with The Lemonheads. Since he’s been recording and touring regularly the latter half of this decade, first on his 2003 solo album, Baby I’m Bored, and later with two Lemonheads albums: 2006’s self titled-release and ’09s Varshons, the only consistent thing about his performances has been his dreaminess. Well, at least that’s what my lady friend’s say. Whether you get a coherent grateful Dando eager to share his songs, or a less than lucid one, more interested in boozin’ and druggin’ than his band, that’s another story.
Taking the stage in a cheap sport coat, and faded vintage tee, Dando didn’t even bother to acknowledge the Grog Shop crowd before quickly strumming his way through “Being Around” and “Allison’s Starting to Happen.” The lack of formalities didn’t seem to matter to the thirty-somethings and the younger fans who would gladly pay to hear anything from The Lemonheads classic 1992 alt-rock album, It’s a Shame About Ray.
The Lemonheads have always a loosely knit band in the loosest sense of the word. Even in their hey-day, members rarely stayed for more than an album or two. So, when the band joined Dando, and they appeared especially rag tag even for Lemonheads’ standards, you had to take it with a grain of salt. The rhythm guitarist and the bassist were so young, they couldn’t have been more than toddlers when It’s a Shame About Ray first came out, while the drummer was an older gentleman who looked like he fought even more Rock ‘N’ Roll battles than Dando.
Regardless of their appearance, the did prove very apt with the back catalog following Dando’s lead on “My Drug Buddy,” “It’s a Shame About Ray,” and “Confetti,” adding some girth to song’s which tended to the folksier side of the power pop spectrum on record. The only time they stumbled was when Dando may or may not have added an abstract guitar solo to “Green Fuzz.” I say may or may not because it wasn’t really apparent if he was set to jam, or just lost his place in the song. That one’s up for debate.
Also up for debate was Dando’s lucidity in general. After closing the set with “Outdoor Type,” he left his guitar stranded against the amp, screeching uncomfortable feedback. Dando would return for two encores — the first with a full band and the second just him and his guitar. Each time his lack of communication left the crowd wondering if he was really done for the night or merely going back stage for another drink. Another awkward moment with the band during “If I Could Take I’d Tell You,” which we won’t call an abstract solo, and a hurried and haphazard take on “Frank Mills,” answered that question. To Dando’s credit, he never labored those missteps. He just shrugged his shoulders and played the lovable slacker he’s always been.
The Lemonheads Set List — Grog Shop Cleveland Hts 6.22.09
1. Being Around (Evan Dando Solo electric)
2. Allison’s Starting to Happen (Solo electric)
3. Down About It
5. Green Fuzz
6. My Drug Buddy
7. It’s a Shame About Ray
8. Rick James Style
9. Into Your Arms
10. Big Gay Heart
11. Great Big No
13. Layin’ Up With Linda
15. Waiting Around to Die
16. Outdoor Type
17. I Just Can’t Take it Any More
18. Why Do You Do This to Yourself
19. If I Could Talk I’d Tell You
21. Skulls (Solo electric)
22. Frank Mills (Solo electric)