The Lemonheads: 27 January 2012 - Lawrence, KS

Indeed, it seemed that the unwavering appreciation for Ray was all that most admirers found appreciable. That’s in part a shame for Evan Dando; it’s also a mistake on the part of the public.

The Lemonheads
City: Lawrence, KS
Venue: The Granada
Date: 2012-01-27

What, exactly, great alt-rock albums came out in the '90s, and achieved mainstream success? To cite just a few: Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream (1993), Nirvana’s Nevermind (1991), Hole’s Live Through This (1994). Pearl Jam’s Ten (1991), Soundgarden’s Superunknown (1994), and Alice in Chains’ Dirt (1992). Furthermore, one shan’t fail to forget Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual de lo Habitual (1990), and R.E.M.’s Out of Time (1991). (The Pixies of course, too.) This sort of sudden fame few artists attained, at least to the degree of the aforementioned bands.

But the Lemonheads' It’s a Shame About Ray (1992) was also an affective piece, as it indeed hit the mainstream. In point of fact, Stephen M. Deusner wrote, “Ray sounds nearly revelatory in its restlessness, mixing college pop with country flair and relocating Gus Van Sant's Portland atmosphere to New England. The most beguiling aspect of the title track, one of Dando's best compositions, is its impenetrability: It could be about anyone or pertain to almost any bad situation, and that ambiguity suggests some tragedy that can't be named or faced."

Boston’s the Lemonheads are now only singer-guitarist Evan Dando, and Dando tours under his band’s name, and it is probably precise to so do. He was arguably the band’s principal member and creative force -- most especially in terms of pure songwriting aptitude, much of which was based on his actual life experiences. Dando and his band are in the midst of a lengthy tour route -- with the sound strategy and selling-point of performing It’s a Shame About Ray in its entirety. Thematically, the album is homologous to both Dirt and Nevermind.

Indeed, there was a good-sized crowd tonight. However, the concert certainly did not sell-out, although it did draw a cult of long-time followers mixed with several younger fans, some of whom stood right next to the stage with palpable interest. Dressed in a retro western shirt, Dando put on fairly solid nostalgia act, and despite one considerable pander, he did exactly what he wanted to do. In this sense, then, the show was a mixed blessing.

As to low-points, I noted two in particular: Dando attempted to sing a cheesy but classic song but butchered the lyrics, and was forced to cease. A few boobs from the audience threw some items at Dando, but he just brushed the incident off as if nothing had happened. In fact, he made a jocular comment and went on. That was not to be the end of some sort of boisterous disapproval from the crowd, however. At the latter part of the show, Dando, Mad Scientist, was fooling around with his amplifier for several minutes, and several fans loudly booed. So go those ridiculous stereotypes about Midwestern politeness.

However, the highpoints far outweighed these few moments, and the rendition of Ray in total though a pander -- was intriguing and, to be sure, well-performed. Dando used an electric guitar for the title track, and it was a sound move. And his guitar riffing was flawless. Other top live songs from the 30-minute album included “Alison’s Starting to Happen”, “Frank Mills”, and the album’s loud, more straight-up rocker, “Rockin Stroll”. But Dando’s pristine, grave, and, musically, folksy rendition of “My Drug Buddy” was insurmountable -- in that its honest subject matter combined with Dando’s pronounced, ironic facial gestures tended to bestow it gravitas. (The absence of bassist Juliana Hatfield was recognizable.)

Sadly, Dando’s largely 45-minute solo acoustic set didn’t fully satisfy the crowd, but it was more poetic and reflective. In fact, throughout most of the evening Dando stared up, as if in a trance, and focused on the recitation of the lyrics. He very subtly, infrequently looked at the audience. He spoke only briefly, about a previous stage-diving misadventure in Lawrence; he was mainly centered on his poetic delivery. Dando concluded by poeticizing about mortality. “The artistic genius wants to give pleasure, but if his work is on a very high level, he may easily lack people to appreciate it; he offers them food, but no one wants it," Nietzsche observed. Indeed, it seemed that the unwavering appreciation for Ray was all that most admirers found appreciable. That’s in part a shame for Evan Dando; it’s also a mistake on the part of the public.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.