Evan Dando / Sara Johnston The Capital Complex, Fredericton NB, May 29
Published May 30, 2014Despite the popularity of the '90s reunion tours that many bands are so keen on at the moment, there's something kind of frightening about trying to capture those special musical memories 20 years later. After all, the sands of time keep moving along, and that means the chances of it living up to expectations are probably less than most people are willing to admit. Yet quite a few folks in Fredericton decided to give lead Lemonhead Evan Dando that chance.
Bran Van 3000's Sara Johnston took to the stage first, although there was very little of the band's influence in her solo material. Instead, it was more typical singer-songwriter material, which was delivered rather earnestly. It was pretty enough, but didn't manage to quiet the chatty crowd, especially when she changed from electric to acoustic guitar. It was a pity, because her brand new songs and Billy Idol cover ('Eyes Without A Face') showed more than enough charm.
Then there was Evan Dando, still all charisma and cheekbones. He's barely aged at all (although there's a lot more facial hair), and is still in fine voice. He's also a damned good guitarist, something that was probably overlooked back in the day. The combination of the venue's size and the fact that he was only armed with an acoustic guitar made for a wonderfully intimate show, as if a '90s pop icon had invited a bunch of friends over to hear him relive his finest moments. Much of the audience was composed of the same people who very likely would have gone to see him back when the original albums were released, so he didn't have to work too hard to win them over. And nobody yelled out for "Mrs. Robinson," either.
During the first 30 minutes, the between-song chatter was kept to a minimum as he moved from classic to classic at a frenetic pace. The focus was very much on the later, radio-friendly albums, although a few early favourites were thrown in, like "Hate Your Friends." Naturally, it was songs like "My Drug Buddy" and "It's About Time" that were the most warmly received, and although there's a surprising depth to the Lemonheads' back catalog, he shared plenty of well-chosen covers by Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, the Frogs and Dinosaur Jr.
Dando got more talkative as the night progressed and genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself. When he forgot the words to a song, he just moved right onto another without even pausing.
Sara Johnston appeared again to share vocal duties on a couple of covers — Teenage Fanclub's "Cells" and Florida Georgia Line's "Round Here," making it clear that the atmosphere onstage was getting more relaxed. Towards the end, he was goofing around more and barely making it through a song without throwing in some kind of ad lib or other silliness, but it really didn't matter: by that point, he'd already more than delivered.