By Dan McMahon
Note to self – next time Evan Dando announces a last minute solo gig at the Spotted Mallard, book a table. For a Tuesday evening, it was packed. Every table was booked and standing room was close to full. Dando has a career story worth a movie deal. The Lemonheads formed in 1986, followed by semi-world domination in the early 1990s, a big downward spiral due to personal issues, then resurgence as a troubadour for the 40 something crowd to this day. He has not released an original album for many years, but seems to captivate his audience with alt-country classics and his own Lemonheads back catalogue on every visit to Australia.
He had a speedy entrance; running up the stairs, sitting on his stool and launching into the Smudge classic, ‘The Outdoor Type’. A hush fell over the room as he sang about not being able to grow a beard (despite sporting one himself). The set list was an even mix of covers and Lemonheads tracks. Highlights of his covers were ‘Hard Drive’ penned by Ben Lee and ‘Streets of Baltimore’ made famous by Gram Parsons (who one would think Dando has modelled his recent career on).
Still, the Lemonheads back catalogue received the most excited reaction for the audience. ‘It’s a Shame about Ray’, ‘Into your Arms’ and ‘Being Around’ were greeted with a timid sing-a-long by the audience, not wanting to overpower Dando’s smooth vocals. As the gig progressed, his vocal delivery improved from impressive to sublime. A friend of mine once said he sings like expensive bourbon – smooth as hell, but hits you hard. Exactly what we all witnessed tonight.
After approximately 45 minutes, Dando said ‘thank you’ one last time, got up from his stool and ran back down the stairs and out the door like he was going to miss the #19 tram down Sydney Rd.
That’s Evan Dando. It’s almost like he doesn’t feel safe on stage, yet when he is in the middle of a tune, he couldn’t be more present.