Evan Dando @ The Zoo

The live experience car-crash reputation is something that Evan Dando seems unable to shake off, to the point where it feels like it’s almost compulsory to see him more than once on any tour to ensure that you get the full repertoire of one performance to remember for all the right reasons and one for all the wrong reasons. The first time I saw him play live was at Glastonbury in 1995, an infamous performance by anyone’s standards, where having missed his scheduled mainstage afternoon performance (allegedly after being led astray and off the wagon thanks to a certain Brit Pop band singer and the contents of his medicine cabinet) he was squeezed on to the acoustic tent stage before Portishead, unbeknown to the expectant crowd who boo-ed him off after a few songs when they realised that they weren’t getting the Trip Hop fix they were wanting to hear. And reading the reviews for the show in Byron Bay, the evening after tonight’s Brisbane show, it sounds like it was another performance to watch through your fingers.

Tonight’s Zoo show isn’t exactly a car crash performance but is still one that is left wanting. In many ways it has everything going for it; it’s a set of absolutely classic Lemonheads songs, sung beautifully and Dando has a scary Dorian Gray thing going on, not looking a day older than when ‘A Shame About Ray‘ was released, a frightening seventeen years ago, back in 1992. But where it disappoints is in the delivery; the songs are played machine gun-style one after another for the whole gig, with no breaks between songs and barely a pause for breath or to take the audience’s acclaim and appreciation. Whilst you can’t fault the songs, especially with the bulk of the set coming from ‘A Shame About Ray’ and ‘Come On Feel The Lemonheads‘, the manner in which they are played gives an impression that Dando doesn’t want to be there, just play for his contracted hour stage-time and get the hell out of there. When singer/songwriters play intimate acoustic solo shows you expect them to have a more relaxed presence, to talk about the songs, introduce them, tell us what you’ve been up to, but Dando hardly makes eye contact and is very un-engaging, only really acknowledging the audience to apologise for the sound issues towards the start of the set (and during my personal favourite Lemonheads’ song – ‘My Drug Buddy‘ – of all songs…) but then apologising about three times for it during the encores.

There’s a new album (of covers) due out next month and I’m sure there will be more Australian shows in due course. We’ll just have to hope that the Brisbane show falls on the right day of the week for it to be remembered for all the right reasons.

A few more photos on Flickr.

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