The Lemonheads, Engine Rooms, Southampton, 17th February 2019

Promptly onstage mere seconds prior to 9pm  and offstage by 10 and playing a career spanning setlist of 25 plus songs in between, Evan Dando set quite a pace tonight. Pace and haste, perhaps not two words one would normally associate with the Lemonhead chief. After all, the new album ‘Varshons 2’ follows on from 2009’s initial ‘Varshons’ album so it seems that Dando is not in a rush to shake off the 1990’s slacker rock tag. Yet, donned in a fine white blazer matching his SG guitar, Dando and the current Lemonheads four-piece line up were straight out of the blocks with quick fire songs from the early catalogue including ‘Hospital‘, ‘Down About It’, ‘The Turnpike Down’ and ‘Its A Shame About Ray’.

The first cover of the night, Yo La Tengo’s ‘Can’t Forget’ slowed the speed a little with some brushed percussion and shimmering guitar while John Prine’s ‘Speed Of The sound Of Loneliness’ followed on perfectly with some additional slide accompaniment. After a brief reggae style flirtation on ‘Unfamiliar’, an aching version of ‘Tenderfoot’, by fellow ’90s slacker pop peers Smudge, drew the first part of the set to a close. The band withdrew leaving Dando alone and acoustic and he was equally as comfortable and entertaining in solo form. Chris Brokaw’s ‘My Idea’ was a simple effortless strum along and he trailed that with Gram Parson’s ‘I just Can’t Take It Anymore’ – Gram quite possibly being Dando’s ultimate personal and musical role model. ‘Big Gay Heart’ and ‘Being Around’, amongst plenty of others, had the audience in full nostalgic singalong. ‘‘If I was the front porch swing, would you let me hang – If I was the dancefloor, would you shake your thang’’, just one of many humorously throw away yet tender lyrics guaranteed to still raise plenty of smiles.

With Dando having a swift glug from the onstage whisky bottle, the band returned for a storming take on Mike Nesmith’s ‘Different Drum’. ‘My Drug Buddy’ and ‘Stove’ followed, the latter with some rare soloing and, to the band’s internal amusement, a cheeky snippet of Blur’s ‘Chemical World’. ‘Into Your Arms’ closed the set and we thought it was all over. However, Dando reappeared for an acoustic delivery of Nick Cave’s ‘Straight To You’, the kind of cover perhaps many artists would baulk at, but it was delivered with subtle melodic ease and poignancy in equal measure. There is not and nor should there be any criticism of tonight’s gig – but – just a little more swiftly back into the studio please Evan. Don’t let that natural talent to go waste.

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