Reviews

The Lemonheads: 18 June 2009 - Chicago

It was as if Evan Dando cruised by a high school, threw the backing band in a van, tossed them a Best Of CD and said, “learn this.”

The Lemonheads

The Lemonheads

City: Chicago
Venue: Abbey Pub
Date: 2009-06-18

Something seems to have happened to Evan Dando since I last saw him two years ago touring behind the eponymous new Lemonheads record. After a nine year recording absence, Dando seemed like a new man with a great new record, backed by members of the seminal punk band The Descendents, and put on one hell of a good show. He was still the eternally youthful golden boy, with good looks that years of hardened drug abuse hadn’t tarnished. The 2007 show, at Chicago’s Double Door, was a blitzkrieg of old and new material, performed with a verve and immediacy that transformed classics like “It’s a Shame About Ray” and “Into Your Arms” from wistful throwbacks into something fresh and vital. The performance was raw, with Dando’s voice stripped bare for solo acoustic numbers, while the band charged through the set at a fevered pitch. Two years later, I was pumped for the Lemonheads two-night stand at Chicago’s Abbey Pub.

Unfortunately, there were signs of trouble before the show even started. A torrential summer downpour meant I was soaked by the time I walked through the doors. Then, through some snafu, I was not on the guest list. There was also the problem of the “new” Lemonheads album, Varshons, a ramshackle collection of obscure cover songs, running the inexplicable gamut from G.G. Allin to the Linda Perry penned song “Beautiful” made famous by Christina Aguilera. Varshons, while technically proficient, just doesn’t make creative or logistical sense, especially after the brilliant return of the last Lemonheads record. My optimism was ultimately shattered by the time Dando and the new band unceremoniously crept onto stage just a shade before midnight.

Dando looked haggard, complete with ripped jeans and eyes that seemed distant and drugged. The latest incarnation of the Lemonheads was complete with two kids on rhythm guitar and bass who looked like they had been plucked from a high school talent show, and performed as such. Both looked scared to death and were barely prepared as Dando, without any introduction, launched into “Down About It”, from the third Lemonheads album Come On Feel the Lemonheads. The venue, filled a quarter to capacity, was composed of thirtysomethings who seemed either confused, drunk, or both. The crowd was littered with women who obviously still carried teenaged Dando crushes from the nineties, and they loudly mangled lyrics while I struggled to hear Dando half heartedly sing his own. The night didn’t get much better as the band dutifully performed pretty much every song from the Atlantic release The Best of The Lemonheads. With bizarre breaks between songs with Dando turning his back to the crowd, the band mostly scratched their heads, apparently too nervous to smile or address the crowd.

While it’s hard to complain about the setlist, with some of my all time favorites -- “If I Could Talk” and “Confetti”, for example -- peppered throughout, the songs were performed mechanically, with Dando’s gaze fixed on the ceiling. The set was literally a Best Of, with maybe one song from Varshons performed acoustically that I didn’t recognize. It was as if Dando cruised by a high school, threw the backing band in a van, tossed them a Best Of CD and said, “learn this.” The whole set was just over an hour long, and after “Rudderless” the band just sort of walked offstage slowly. Dando waved, announcing that he would be signing autographs at the merch table. Five minutes later, after waiting in line to get my poster signed, Dando was gone. That was it, and I walked back out into the rain, feeling like I was in a John Cusack movie, a brokenhearted man not jilted by a woman, but by a man named Evan Dando.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.