The Lemonheads – Academy, Dublin – Gig Review by Killian Laher
It was hard to know what to expect from the Lemonheads on a damp Monday night in Dublin in 2015. With no new album to promote singer Evan Dando has received little attention in recent years. It’s not exactly a glorious reformation since the band never exactly split up, though I suspect the non-Dando Lemonheads are not the original members. Not that it mattered, in latter years the band has mainly been a vehicle for Dando.
Support act was Karolien Van Ransbeeck from Belgian band Few Bits, playing solo as her band didn’t make the trip. Her set was a bunch of pleasant if unremarkable songs such as Shell and People. She did manage to delight one fan in particular, who judging by his accent had followed her from the previous night’s gig in Belfast! Her set perked up considerably towards the end as the songs got rockier when she was joined by a drummer.
But it was clear that the audience were here to genuflect at the altar of Dando. The Lemonheads had the crowd eating out of their hand right from opening track Hospital. Speedy pop-punk tracks like Down About It and Dawn Can’t Decide rocked pretty hard with Dando and Chris Brokaw on twin guitar attack, while It’s About Time was endearingly sloppy. Dando gave the band a breather with some downbeat solo versions of Into Your Arms, Frank Mills and All My Life, Dando cutting a rather forlorn figure as he sang “all my life I thought I needed all the things I didn’t need at all”. By no means note-perfect, at times they tried the crowd’s patience with meandering versions of Dando’s solo material and a lurching Ride With Me, he struggled to hit the notes on It’s A Shame About Ray and My Drug Buddy, and they completely ignored 2006’s underrated self-titled album. Although his between song ‘banter’ was pretty much unintelligible, it has to be said Dando has a way with a song. Rudderless, The Outdoor Type and The Great Big No sounded as fresh and thrilling as they did twenty years ago, and they rocked mightily on Break Me, albeit Dando sounds fairly broken to begin with.
They limped over the line with rocked up versions of Hannah & Gabi, Bit Part and If I Could Talk I’d Tell You, sending the audience happily into the night. So not a night of pushing the boundaries musically but some classic songs powered through by an enthusiastically all-over-the-shop band. A band with as much energy as their 20 years’ younger counterparts.