The Lemonheads @ Liverpool Academy 2 07.12.11

Wayward genius Evan Dando leads this week’s line-up of The Lemonheads through a stunning rendition of 1992 classic LP ‘It’s a Shame About Ray’ at a capacity Academy 2…

Dec 7th, 2011 at Liverpool Academy / By Richard Lewis
The Lemonheads In 1993 Evan Dando was put simply, a star. Lauded by Rolling Stone, NME and Spin plus teen girl mags such as Seventeen and Sassy simultaneously made the Bostonian a pop pin-up and a revered songwriter.

The near misses, fuzzy triumphs and commercially diminishing returns that followed that peak year when Come On Feel the Lemonheads was released saw the singer stagger through the remainder of the decade under a drug-heavy cloud. What was never in any doubt however was the sublime It’s a Shame About Ray, the 1992 album upon which much of Dando’s reputation was based on.

Put simply one of the best LPs of the decade …Ray streamlined the band’s ramshackle punk beginnings, brought the songwriting into greater focus and added weapons-grade quality hooks onto every track present. The decision to play the album in full live, leading up to its anniversary next year is the first Lemonheads related activity since well-received covers LP Varshions in 2009.

Affably shambling onstage, following a quick canter through ‘Being Around’ Evan fires up the descending riff of ‘Rocking Stroll’, the band burst into life and off they go. It’s a Shame About Ray is a record famous for its brevity, clocking in at 29.46, its breathless pace allowing for myriad twists and turns in genre, style and mood throughout.

Rather like pilots who managed to shave seconds off Concorde’s Transatlantic voyage with each successive year, here the trio improve on the LP’s already short running time by sprinting through the entire disc without pausing for breath.

Barely allowing for applause between songs, the three piece hurtle through indie evergreens ‘Confetti’, ‘Alison’s Starting to Happen’, ‘Rudderless’ and ‘My Drug Buddy’ with ruthless efficiency.

With almost every word sung en masse by the crowd, the title track sees voices raised the loudest, the relentless delivery underlining how timeless the album is almost 20 years since its release, as song upon classic song deliriously piles on top of one another.

To no-one’s great surprise that song from The Graduate soundtrack (which didn’t feature on the original LP) is omitted. Concluding with a massed singalong of ‘Frank Mills’ from 1960s hippie musical Hair, a short rest is finally permitted before the remainder of the set.

The vaguely amusing sight of lads who were bouncing round during Ray’s’ power-pop charge stood round looking quizzical is in abundance as the singer plays several country-inflected tunes solo, significantly altering the mood. The gorgeous swoon of ‘The Outdoor Type’ and relationship post-mortem ‘My Idea’ are breezed through, the bare-bones arrangements proving in spades the strength of Dando’s songwriting.

With the rhythm section back onstage, ‘Down About It’ and ‘If I Could Talk I’d Tell You’ are blitzed through with early landmark ‘Stove’ hurtling past, providing a link to the band’s earlier, noisier origins.

Returning for the encore an excellent reading of Linda Ronstadt classic ‘Different Drum’ and the ‘Heads biggest US hit ‘Into Your Arms’ wraps things up. ‘He only played for eighty minutes’ one onlooker observes as the crowd streams out. Yep, but why gild the lily by playing any longer? Quality, not quantity rules the day.

29 (minutes) + 46 (seconds) = 75 out of 10.