Evan Dando Works It Out Onstage

March 8th, 2010

Evan Dando – Mercury Lounge – March 7, 2010

It was close to 1 a.m. at Mercury Lounge when Lemonheads frontman Evan Dando hurried onstage, mumbling about a flight from Seattle and apologizing for being late, unwittingly living up to the slacker image branded upon him during his ’90s heyday. He promised to make it up to the sold-out crowd and strapped on his guitar, beginning with “The Outdoor Type”—from the Lemonheads’ 1996 album, Car Button Cloth—a tune filled with his straightforward, self-deprecating lyrics. The crowd was charmed by song’s end and Dando’s tardiness was forgiven in just two minutes.

Performing as a solo artist seemed liberating and challenging for Dando. He reached deep into the corners of his catalog, honoring requests from the crowd left and right (“Hospital,” “Hard Drive”). Although he did appear uncomfortable at times. But unlike with his nervous stage banter, Dando eloquently expressed his thoughts though his lyrics. Without the fanfare of a backing band, such Lemonheads favorites as “My Drug Buddy,” “Being Around” and “Great Big No” seemed a bit more melancholy, with the lyrics at the forefront and the emphasis on Dando’s evocative, at times weary voice. Songs like “Great Big No” and “Bit Part” felt even more poignant after an offhand, awkward mention of his recent separation from his wife.

By nearly 2:30, the crowd had thinned considerably, yet Dando was still going strong. But it was unclear whether he was simply making good on his promise to deliver a worthwhile show or if he was actually working over some personal issues through his music. Dando closed the show with the possibly appropriate “Rudderless,” in which he compared himself to a directionless ship. —Alena Kastin