Evan Dando brought back It’s a Shame About Ray and more when his Lemonheads played New York. The seminal 1992 record has recently been re-released as an expanded collector’s edition, and to celebrate, The Lemonheads played the entire record from start to finish (more or less) on March 30th at Bowery Ballroom (QRO venue review). But they didn’t stop there, hitting up material from other nineties records, and returning for an encore with new material.
From the first speedy, upbeat chords of Ray opener “Rockin’ Stroll”, Dando was pretty much all business, going straight from one piece to the next. “Confetti” was just as catchy as it had ever been, while “It’s a Shame About Ray” still had its carrying melody. “Rudderless” showed off a more wistful side, while the “Buddy” chorus of “I love / My drug buddy” only feels more poignant now that Dando’s come out on the other side of his own substance abuse problems.
The Lemonheads playing “Rudderless” live at Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY:
The alt-country swoon of “Turnpike Down” was turned up, but it was “Bit Part” that saw the biggest crowd sing-along, everyone playing his or her ‘bit part’. “Allison’s Starting To Happen” was a clear audience favorite, though the switch to the slow “Hannah & Gabi” was a little woozy. The hook-laden “Kitchen” and “Ceiling Fan In My Spoon” blended seamlessly together, while the storytelling funny-folk of “Frank Mills” saw Dando standing alone, voice no louder than the crowd’s. Unfortunately, The Lemonhead’s superb cover of Paul Simon’s “Mrs. Robinson” wasn’t part of the night. To be fair, it had only been tacked on to the end of Ray (bumping the more-fitting-as-a-finisher “Frank Mills” to the penultimate spot), after the cover, originally made to celebrate the video release of The Graduate, hit it big as a single (to the chagrin of the band).
The Lemonheads playing “Frank Mills” live at Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY:
At only thirty-three minutes of running time, It’s a Shame About Ray would make for a relatively short, though certainly sweet, set. But Dando was only at the mid-point, as he launched into a back-half of material from his other nineties releases. He began with the sad and wistful “Take Her Down”, from 1993’s Creator, but stuck mostly to tracks off of the same year’s Come On Feel The Lemonheads and 1996’s Car Button Cloth. Songs like Come On’s “Being Around” and Car’s “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You” showed off more of an alt-country side (though that was most on display in a cover they did do, live staple “Just Can’t Take It Anymore” by Gram Parsons), while there was a catchy press to Come On’s “Down About It” and Car’s “Tenderfoot”. Car’s “Hospital” was sad and carrying, with Come On’s “The Great Big No” big and epic. And a nice change came in the form of the darker “Rick James Style”, with a guitar explosion.
The Lemonheads playing “Down About It” live at Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY:
When Dando, along with current Lemonheads Vess Ruthenberg (bass) and Devon Ashley (drums), returned, he was at his country-est in “No Backbone”. That came from 2006’s The Lemonheads, the first record he’d made under that moniker in ten years. The Lemonheads look set to release a follow-up this year, and there was at least one really new piece, the peppy country-rock of finisher “Lie Down With Me”.
The audience was both younger, and more male, than one might have expected for the former grunge teen heartthrob. However, they certainly knew all the songs (and not just the ones from Ray). A justifiably classic record, without “Mrs. Robinson” but with a lot more thrown in, got a justifiably classic show.