The Lemonheads : Institute, Birmingham – live review
1st October 2015
The Lemonheads are one of those bands that meant an awful lot to a great deal of people. Their mainstay, Evan Dando, once dubbed the pretty boy of the alternative scene has made some fantastic records and played an awful lot of gigs over the years. Louder Than War’s Adrian Bloxham and photographer Martin Ward caught the Birmingham show, read about what they thought below.
I was completely obsessed with the Lemonheads. When I discovered It’s A Shame About Ray I fell in love with that short slice of music, to the point of repeat plays and giving tapes to everyone I know. Not just that album, though, I own lots of vinyl by them, my seven inch copy of Luka is so worn out that the cover is just two sheets of paper. What I’m trying to say here is that for a brief time in my short lifetime the music that soundtracked me was by the man standing onstage now, older but no wiser and still with a twinkle in his eye.
He needs a shave, he is slightly stooped and he has his lovely arms covered, which I am assured by my friends are what it’s all about. But even with his well-documented life choices he can still play, still sing and at times it still feels like it did way back when. He puts the clamp onto his guitar and gets straight into it, the sound is just as you remember; almost sloppy country rock with a grunge shadow. His voice is still smooth and rich. The music still fills me with the happiness it did first time around. With their shuffling grooves and Evan’s voice, The Lemonheads should have been huge.
There have been a whole host of Lemonheads over the years, tonight there are two younger members who could have been in any of the incarnations and a statuesque bassist who looks like she could be in the Fuzztones, all 60s glamour and excited poses. They create the backing for Evan Dando, the only one who has always been a Lemonhead and still the only one this crowd has come to see.
If there is a better song about the stupidity and shallowness of taking drugs than ‘Style’ then I haven’t heard it yet. Pure grunge noise with Evan singing those cutting lyrics. It kills me and reminds me once again why they were briefly the best band in my life. Following this, the band leave the stage for a solo stint by the frontman, the best moment of which is ‘Frank Mills’ which the crowd sings as loudly as he does.
‘It’s a Shame About Ray’ sounds like it’s going to fall apart, he changes the way he sings it but it doesn’t take away from the song, ‘My Drug Buddy’ is big, slow and cool. The songs from that album dominate the show for me; it’s not so much resting on faded glory as making it all relevant again. It’s funny that a band best known for cover versions didn’t lean on them tonight. Evan Dando may look a little hunched and a little more rough around the edges but he is still able to make a room full of people sing ‘Hell’s Angels’ at him without even trying. An absolute triumph and I’ve got them on the turntable again right now.
All words by Adrian Bloxham. More writing by Adrian can be found at his author’s archive.
All Pictures by Martin Ward