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The Lemonheads + Meredith Sheldon + Nile Marr @ 02 Academy 2 Birmingham, 10th December 2011

Take yourselves back to ’92, when life, just maybe, was a little more carefree. We have all grown up since then, as part of life’s journey – as have these guys – tonight in a rather chilly Christmassy Birmingham, we’re here to tune into Evan Dando and The Lemonheads, playing ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’ in its entirety. Plus lots more.

‘It’s A Shame About Ray’ morphed The Lemonheads from college rockers to the mainstream, making Dando a gorgeous pin-up for alternative rock. He even gained a spot in Auntie Beeb’s ’97 version of Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day.’ Not long after The Lemonheads went into hiatus, until 2004, when they started playing gigs and have continued to do so to this day. This gig, totally sold out, is one of a series of pre-Christmas gigs throughout the UK, although these days the ‘band’ only includes Dando from the original line up, joined by Vess Ruhtenburg, Devon Ashley and Mark Cutsinger.

First up tonight it’s Nile Marr, son of one Johnny Marr.  Trading under the name of Man Made, akin in a sparkly jacket, Marr is a one man band, playing electric guitar to accompany his songs, with gadgets to generate repeat and effects with lots of feedback. A serious young man, the set is pretty intense.

Then we’re onto another one ‘wo’man band, this time in the shape of Meredith Sheldon, again with guitar, playing melodic folk / punk tracks, she too is pretty intense, though pleasant enough to listen too. Few words between songs, the stage is covered with a stupid amount of dry ice (which does nothing for anyone with a cough – like me!) 25 minute set and she’s off and the venue fills, waiting expectantly for the main act.

Just after 8.30 a dark shadow meanders onto the small stage and starts up on his guitar. The darkened silhouette is indeed Evan Dando and starts off tonight’s set with two solos ‘Being Around’ and ‘The Outdoor Type.’ A big cheer goes up from the crowd, and as the rest of the band appear on stage join in, “Okay here we go with the album…” and we’re into ‘It’s A Shame About Ray”.  Fourth track ‘Confetti’ in Dando stops, clearly not happy with how it’s going, to brief boos from the crowd, the band reset and start from the beginning of the track. “Thank you” as they complete it successfully; the crowd cheer.

The album takes you back in time, especially ‘Rudderless’ – a melodic chilling rock that winds to a crescendo – live the album covers harmonies to feel-good college rock, more intense to grungey sound – tonight is Dando having fun, in his serious way.  This set is a time-warp, with a chill out vibe, man. For the last track of the album ‘Frank Mills’ and the band depart and we’re left with just Dando, once again, playing a solo. The crowd cheer; Dando makes an apology for technical problems with his guitar cabinet, as the roadies sort it out.

The into a solo set, starting off with ‘It’s About Time’, the crowd sing along, filling in the words. “….. play whatever you want for the rest of the night…….” Dando has no dedicated set setlist, on stage there is a rough guide more for the band than him, and he does what he feels like, inspired by the crowd to play.

Throughout the gig, behind the band, a video, shot like a old 35mm home movie, with views from the front of a vehicle driving down roads, motorways, through town and cities – looks like the road trip across the UK…..

The solo set continues with a further five songs before the band re-appear, another apology from Dando for the technical difficulties “…. we’ll keep playing now…” and we get the band in full flow on a further ten songs including ‘Big Gay Heart’, ‘Favourite T’ and ‘Stove.’  Curfew is 10pm tonight (weekend at the 02 Academy, it’s an early night) and the gig feels like it will pleasantly roll on and on, as we cruise towards the deadline. And then last track ended, the band and Dando meander off, just like he came on, and it’s over. Bang on 10pm.

Dando is a serious lad, and man of few words outside his lyrics. Tonight’s gig, full of thirty-somethings, was a trancey, folky, grungy, night. Dando is yes, playing his most successful album, but with a set of an eclectic mix of thirty songs, (and no ‘Mrs Robinson’) he’s clearly a man enjoying the solos and jamming with the band, and the fans that came along too play tonight, clearly enjoyed themselves. There have been rumours of a new album for a while, but rumour has it you can shortly re-live on their greatest hits – double CD due for release in 2012. In the meantime, while we wait, tonight was thoroughly entertaining reminder – a good night had by all.

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Listening:

It’s A Shame About Ray (1992)

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Review for Birmingham Live!