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  • The Lemonheads - Live At The Belly Up: Review

    Mon, 21 Dec 2015 10:35:00

    The Lemonheads - Live At The Belly Up: Review - Part of Evan Dando's charm is his fun, gawky stage presence, and there was no shortage of that at The Belly Up

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    (September 24th, Solana Beach, CA) When bubble gum grunge group The Lemonheads announced the re-release of all their 90's albums in a box set in June of this year, there was much rejoicing among nostalgic GenXers and indie fans. Aptly titled The 90's Studio Album Collection, this mega-set contains re-mastered and versions of all four 90s albums released by the group, 1990's Lovey to Car Button Cloth in 1996. With a supporting tour commencing closely after the compilation's release, aging punks and grungeheads were inspired to drag their Doc Martens and flannel shirts out in order to see one of the few alternative groups of the '90s to truly cross over into the pop scene while maintaining a respected indie foothold.

    The Lemonheads' commercial success in the 90s and early 00s was largely due to the boyish like-ability of frontman Evan Dando. With his model looks and approachable punk gravitas, Dando represented a seemingly cleaner side to grunge which marketed well. In reality Dando struggled with a serious drug problem from before the group's founding, and his punk street cred was much grimier than his semi-sunny pop image would lead fans to believe. While his music was fun and somewhat upbeat, most of his lyrics, especially on the seminal It's a Shame About Ray were deep, insightful and just a biting as some of the more seemingly heavy alt. rock bands of the time.

    The Belly Up Tavern in San Diego, California is where The Lemonheads chose to kick off this year's tour on September 24. The Belly Up is one of Southern California's best-known independently owned rock venues. Though it is small and intimate it has great acoustics for rock and regularly sees rock royalty grace its stage.

    Thursday evening or not, fans turned out in great numbers to see The Lemonheads. The band played for almost two hours, and the spread of songs was even across the discography. It seemed Dando took great care to give the crowd many of the more popular songs while also giving service to some of his own lesser-known favorites. A drunken fan shouting a request for Dando's cover of the Suzanne Vega song "Luka" went unheeded, many other famous songs like "Rudderless" and "Bit Part" showed up in the setlist.

    A pleasant surprise in the middle of the show saw Dando take the stage solo with an acoustic guitar and stripped-down folk versions many Lemonheads favorites. He also threw in a couple of covers from Bob Dylan and other 60s folksters. Many fans don't know of Dando's love for folk music, but the crowd embraced the interlude, singing along with well-known songs like "Into Your Arms" and "My Drug Buddy."

    There were a couple of hiccups during the show. There seemed to be some confusion about tuning amongst the band, and Dando had trouble with his pedals. During his acoustic/electric crossover attempt at "Allison's Starting to Happen," the timing of the pedal switch didn't quite hit properly. Dando also apologized for his strained voice, which he said was due to over-rehearsing, but it really wasn't noticeable. Overall the performance was professional and high-energy and it was clear the band were having a great time.

    Part of Evan Dando's charm is his fun, gawky stage presence, and there was no shortage of that at The Belly Up on September 24. That paired with his unique songwriting, cutting lyrics and surprising guitar skills have cemented The Lemonheads' place in '90s indie history. Almost 30 years since Dando founded the group, The Lemonheads are still pulling crowds and having a great time performing songs from their heyday. The tour will mostly be in intimate venues, with shows coming up in Santa Cruz and San Francisco before the band travels to the UK. The 90's Studio Album Collection is available on digital formats, with plans to release physical copies after the tour.

    —The ARTISTdirect Staff

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