First of all, hats off to the support groups. It’s rare that you get one good support band, let alone two. The first was a male/female duo, who would have been a three-piece but for the fact that the drummer had got ‘lost in transit’. This was a good thing too as he probably would have ruined the slide guitar-accompanied, acoustic newcomers. Their name? The Pieces.
Next came YouamI, an Australian four-piece in the vein of the Black Crowes but with a bit more aggression and a little less class. The lead singer ‘sipped’ Gordons Gin all the way through, although I don’t know if this means anything.
We, or at least I, had been waiting the best part of a decade to see The Lemonheads, or Evan Dando as he now wants to be known, so it wasn’t too disheartening when he didn’t get on stage until 10pm. At first he appeared (I’ve edited out the tautology here!) with just his acoustic guitar for company and went straight into Hannah And Gabi, immediately dispelling any concerns anyone had about whether he was going to play new or old material. For the next 70 minutes we were treated to a feast of past memories from It’s A Shame About Ray and Car Button Cloth, as well as some future classics.
The term ‘bitter sweet’ is used much too easily in this saturated time of average and adequate singer/songwriters, but not tonight. As Evan Dando played The Outdoor Type and Buddy, there was a deep poignancy and sensitivity that I felt privileged to witness in such a small venue. Perhaps I felt this way because it was so clear that the man has lived what he was singing about. Then again, perhaps it was because I saw grown men cry, something that would never happen at a David Gray circus.
After a brief outing of Why Do You Do This To Yourself from the new album Baby I’m Bored, the rest of his dishevelled band appeared on stage and kicked out the jams. Shame About Ray and Big Gay Heart were intertwined with new album tracks Hard Drive and Stop My Head and each of them was a three-minute gem played by an extremly tight band.
There was little in the way of crowd banter and even less movement by the band members themselves, but this did not matter. The music did the talking and, more often than not, the look of emotion on Evan Dando’s face was all the dancing required.
Unlike in Lichfield where the music runs deep into the depths of the dark night, the powers that be robbed the lucky few of an encore, so, true to his songs, he never got the chance to out-stay his welcome. There is a line off the new album that says: “There’s a million things you will never get to do.” Well, last night I got to do something that will live long in the memory. If you ever get the chance to do likewise, jump at it as if it is the last thing you will ever get to do.