Review of The Lemonheads at The Junction, Cambridge
14th February 2019
by Jude Clark of The Cambridge Independent
It was perhaps not the most conventional of date nights, but this Valentine’s Day in Cambridge there was clearly only one destination for alt-rock couples of a certain age: Cambridge Junction to see much-loved 90s charmers The Lemonheads.
After a short support set from Heyrocco - a young band of millennial slackers who could almost have been expressly designed to appeal to Lemonheads fans (a dash of Pavement’s more melodic moments, a hint of Evan Dando’s laidback charm) – it was on with the evening’s main lovefest, as the man himself and band took to the stage.
Opening with a beautiful cover of John Prine’s ‘The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness’, its country stylings a perfect match for Dando’s still-honeyed tones, the band proceeded to rattle through an astonishing setlist, reminding us – should we have needed reminding – of just how prolific the band were, and just how many lovely, quirky, funny, charming and warm-hearted tunes they have been responsible for.
And what of the evening’s main love object, the man that – let’s be honest – most of the women and a large proportion of the men had come along to swoon over? Evan Dando’s performance style these days is slightly unsettling. Often standing stock still and frequently staring, rabbit-in-headlights-style, at one fixed spot on the ceiling, he doesn’t give the impression of enjoying what he does very much. But then he opens his mouth, and that beautiful warm hug of a voice comes out, singing witty and open-hearted words of love and loss, and the disjunct between the two is marked, and can be unsettling.
But, really, who needs friendly between-song banter and front man heroics when you have songs this good? From ‘Great Big No’ to ‘Rudderless’, set highlights ‘Being Around’ and the more sombre, self-aware ‘Why Do You Do This To Yourself?’ (originally an Evan Dando solo track) to ‘Drug Buddy’ and gorgeous Gram Parsons cover ‘I Just Can’t Take It Any More’ they just kept coming, at such a rate that you were barely reaching the end of one track before another one – gloriously – launched.
With perhaps the evening’s only mis-step coming towards the end of the set with an ill-judged reggae cover (“You guys want to hear some reggae?”: err, not really, thanks, Evan), the encore started with just the singer on the stage for the excellent ‘Frank Mills’ (the crowd accompanying him with gusto) and ‘Bit Part’, before being rejoined by the full band to speed through ‘Break Me’ and end with a suitably on-brand ‘Into Your Arms’. The perfect song to end a near-perfect set, it typifies so much of what has always made The Lemonheads so loveable: a skewed romanticism, human, vulnerable, realistic but sincere and completely moving. All factors that the band brought to Cambridge last night in spades.