The Lemonheads - Oran Mor, Glasgow, Mon 5 Dec 2011
Gargantuan chunks of a bulging, colourful back catalogue is consistently spot on
Evan Dando of The Lemonheads has a somewhat mottled track record when it comes to live performances. Imbued with a drug-fuelled perma-haze since the 90s, many of his latter-day appearances have been cringeworthy, if not a little worrying.
However, returning to Glasgow under the ‘Lemonheads’ banner with a new motley crew in tow, Dando is met with an extraordinary gesture of faith in the form of a sold-out crowd, upstairs at the Oran Mor. There was always going to be a sense of trepidation when approaching tonight’s performance, billed as a run-through of arguably their greatest album to date, 1992’s It’s A Shame About Ray, with Dando the only original member in attendance. However, any anxiety is quickly dispelled when, after a half hour changeover, Dando catches us off-guard and, barely giving the sound guy a chance to cut the music, fires straight into a charming solo run of ‘Being Around’.
Again, barely giving the crowd time to register their excitement, the remaining members dart on stage and rip into … Ray opener, ‘Rockin’ Stroll’. The album is subsequently powered out with barely a pause in between, but each song is rattled out with such confidence that with every turn, it reminds us all that, much like Dando himself, they haven’t aged a bit. When the lights go up, you start to see the pinhole stare and greasy, dishevelled demeanour of Dando take hold, but even though he’s plastered with a dopey grin and seems like he’s jamming on another planet, his voice, his playing and the swift efficiency with which he delivers gargantuan chunks of such a bulging, colourful back catalogue, are all so consistently spot on, it’s almost frightening.
Taking on Ray like an 100m sprint, the live version of the album, lacks a lot of the subtle instrumentation and playful harmonies that helped make it what it was. However, before you can complain about how rushed it is, the band spend the best part of the next 45 minutes charging through countless other classics such as ‘Outdoor type’, ‘If I could talk, I’d tell you’, ‘Into your arms’ and ‘Big Gay Heart’. If that wasn’t enough, Dando jumps back out on his own to finish things off, even throwing in his cover of The Misfits’ ‘Skulls’. Let’s face it, it’s not 1992, and this band aren’t The Lemonheads, but if this is as close as we’re going to get these days, let’s count ourselves lucky that Dando can still throw down a performance of inimitable quality such as this.