There’s something slightly amnesiac about the appeal the Lemonheads have for me, apparently. The first time I saw the band, in 1993 touring the album Come on Feel the Lemonheads, my friends and I got so, uh, celebratory that all I remember of the show is frontman/sole-permanent-member Evan Dando chastising his bass player for wearing the same red jeans as he.
I was far more reserved at last Friday’s show but, still, I lost the notebook I had with me at the band’s Northern Lights performance. So, I can’t provide a comprehensive set list. You might think it’d be unnecessary, as the whole advertised point of the show was the performance of 1992’s It’s a Shame About Ray, but Dando, while delivering on the promise, fucked around. Pretty true to form, really.
So, near as I can recall, the album—with the notable exception of the re-release bonus cover of “Mrs. Robinson”—was performed in its entirety, and winningly. Dando’s backup band, which is ever-shifting and currently includes none of the members who played on the album, played confidently without being overrehearsed. An argument could be made that Shame is as much a classic for the perfectly apt pop production as for the material itself, but Friday’s performance gives that the lie. Dando’s songs remain hooky, memorable and nuanced even when given the ragged edges of a band looking to blow the songs out. This incarnation of the Lemonheads rocked, which, on songs like “Rudderless” or “Alison’s Starting to Happen,” is a super fun, supra-nostalgic experience.
Dando, too, poked at the revival aspect of the gig by pulling solo numbers from his seemingly endless repertoire: songs from Come On Feel and Car Button Cloth, of course, but also covers. There was a Big Star tune, and one by Gram Parsons, too, I think. . . . It was a long night.
The mere presence of Dando produces waywardness in others, too, seemingly. Billed act the Shining Twins did not appear and were replaced by, first, Dando’s bass player, Frank, who performed an accomplished if slightly overwrought mini-set of emo-folk; and by a young woman—whose name is surely in that notebook—who performed a warm and eerie Cat Power-beholden set worthy of some follow-up investigation.
(It’s a Picadilly-brand pocket notebook.)
Opening the night were locals the Charlie Watts Riots. The band are now performing as a trio, after the departure of guitarist-vocalist Brendan Pendergrast, and the tightened roster seems to have energized them. Their set was tight and aggressive, propelled in great part by Joe Putrock’s stick-splintering drumming, and provided great grit to counterbalance the band’s deft work with melodies and the harmonies of those other two guys . . . uh . . .
Just kidding: guitarist Seth Powell and bassist Mike Pauley. (The notebook is maroon.)