at The Vogue Theatre, Indianapolis IN
16th February 2007
Review by David Lindquist from Indy Star
If "American Bandstand" had survived until 1996, it may have presented a scene similar to the one Friday night at the Vogue.
That's where the Lemonheads bashed out dozens of infectious pop songs using a traditional rock format of guitar, bass and drums. Vocalist Evan Dando handled the guitar playing, Indianapolis-based musician Vess Ruhtenberg played bass and Indianapolis-based musician Devon Ashley played drums.
Audience members danced and swayed to the bright melodies of "If I Could Talk I'd Tell You" and "Alison's Starting to Happen," but not everything was shiny and wholesome. Dando also sang "Drug Buddy" and "Style" -- a pair of drug themes and reminders of why his career includes a large gap of inactivity.
The ex-teen idol's use of narcotics derailed the Lemonheads after the release of 1996's "Car Button Cloth" album, and he didn't revive the franchise until a self-titled Lemondheads album arrived last year. While Dando's baritone voice sounded fine at the Vogue, he's apparently lost the motor skills required to play "Confetti's" sprawling guitar solo.
Yet, more often than not, charming oldies held the evening together. An early run through "Hospital," "Drug Buddy" and "The Great Big No" provided a solid platform for new number "Black Gown."
"Gown" made an energetic impression, and several audience members rallied to sing along to its memorable line "If it ain't fixed, don't break it."
That near Yogi-ism is a keeper, and Dando has a history of unleashing lyrics on par with the poet laureate of college rock, Paul Westerberg. "Bit Part," for instance, prompted smiles at the Vogue when Dando sang opening couplet "I want a bit part in your life, a walk-on would be fine."
Hired by Dando after "The Lemonheads" album was complete, Hoosiers Ruhtenberg and Ashley proved to be a valuable support team in a live setting. Ashley sang a wealth of backing vocals and he pushed the rhythm as fast as the famously impatient Dando wanted to go.
In terms of surprises, the Lemonheads covered the Stone Poneys' 1967 hit "Different Drum," and -- maybe not so surprisingly -- Dando knocked over his microphone after singing the line "I'm not gonna not knock things down" during "Style."
At this point, Dando might be smart to put dark and theatrical on the shelf. Sunny and healthy will work just fine.
On the concert's undercard, Indianapolis band We Are Hex thrilled during its first-ever live performance.
Vocalist Jill Weiss is a star only lacking discovery, and she seemed to acknowledge this in lyrics such as "I've got patience to wait" and "Hold fast, hold true, hold on to what you do."
Moving from hardcore screams to more conventional singing, Weiss accessorized with moves cribbed from Mick Jagger. Meanwhile, her Shirley Manson-meets-Chrissie Hynde looks may launch a thousand fan-club memberships.
Musically, We Are Hex conjured a satisfying post-New Wave nightmare, one drenched in keyboards and feedback guitar.