In the words of a song he’s fond of covering, Dando very much marches to the beat of a different drum.
At quarter-past nine, under the blue lights of Chicago’s cozy Lincoln Hall, Evan Dando, in a hoodie and baseball cap, walked onto the stage without fanfare, picked up his guitar and started playing the first of over 30 songs he’d perform that evening. The only break was when he stepped outside, halfway through, to smoke a cigarette. Otherwise, there was barely time to clap, with another song starting just as soon as the previous one ended.
Though the current tour was meant to celebrate the deluxe reissue of his wonderful 2003 solo album Baby I’m Bored—still his only solo album to date—there was something for everyone. Lemonheads fans got all they could ask for, with performances of “The Outdoor Type,” “Being Around,” “It’s About Time,” “Tenderfoot,” “No Backbone,” “Hospital,” “Break Me,” “My Drug Buddy,” “Confetti,” “Hannah & Gabi,” “Into Your Arms,” “Alison’s Starting to Happen,” “Rudderless,” “It’s a Shame about Ray,” “Down About It” and “Big Gay Heart.”
Even as a Lemonheads fan, I had forgotten just how many great songs the guy has written. What’s more, hearing the songs stripped down to the bare essentials lent them a new gravity—you haven’t heard just how beautiful they are if you haven’t heard Dando’s haunting solo acoustic renditions. The experience reminded me of seeing J Mascis play solo; there must be something in the water in Massachusetts…
As with any Dando show, the set also included inspired covers, too, with “Frank Mills” (from the musical Hair), “Skulls” by the Misfits, “I’ll Be Here in the Morning” by Townes Van Zandt, the beautiful “Frying Pan” by Victoria Williams and more. There were also plenty of songs off Baby I’m Bored, including songs that were recorded as collaborations with other songwriters, Ben Lee on “Hard Drive” and “All My Life” and Australian songwriters Chris Brokaw and Tom Morgan on “My Idea” (Morgan, from the band Smudge, has co-written several Lemonheads songs).
During “My Drug Buddy,” we got a preview of what was to come, with a female vocalist appearing onstage to sing the last chorus with him. She reemerged at the end of the set, revealing herself to be Marciana Jones, Dando’s partner in TSP (The Sandwich Police). Covering the Gram Parsons song “Streets of Baltimore” and John Prine’s “Sound at the Speed of Loneliness” and performing several of their own songs before closing with “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” they sounded stellar together. Jones has a sweet, clear tone that is compelling on its own and complements Dando’s deep, rich voice perfectly. The TSP material they played stood up to all that preceded it and, lyrically, had a different feel from Dando’s solo songs.
In the words of a song he’s fond of covering, Dando very much marches to the beat of a different drum. Whether his next release will be a full-length from TSP, a follow-up solo album or the 10th album under the Lemonheads moniker is anyone’s guess. Either way, don’t let Dando come through your town without going to see him. He might be a man of few words (at least he was this night), but the songs more than speak for themselves—loud, clear and true.