In some ways Evan Dando is the alternate reality Kurt Cobain. Both are alt-rock figureheads with heroin dalliances, disownership of their biggest hit and poster-boy good looks; it would not be surprising that if Kurt had not ended it all (and if Nevermind had not been the cultural behemoth it was) that a band-for-hire iteration “Nirvana” would be playing unenthusiastic shows in small rooms like tonight’s HMV Institute Library. There are differences of course, The Lemonheads are best known for a cover, their catalogue was spottier than Nirvana’s and their influences were less Black Flag and more Big Star, but the sames remain.
Lone support band Few Bits are truly forgettable. With her literally shimmering guitar, singer Karolien Van Ransbeeck sighs and whispers out the most cloud-light alt-folk tunes resembling lullabies – support bands are supposed to caffeinate the crowd, not send them to sleep. The highlight is one song that sounds slightly like Gotye’s ‘Somebody I Used to Know’. As soon as they leave the stage all remembrance of them disappears, like a particularly uneventful dream.
As The Lemonheads arrive on stage, current guitarist Chris Brokaw shouts into his microphone, “We’re the Fuckin’ Lemonheads”. With that kind of bold statement one would expect a raucous rock show filled with thrills, energy, and perhaps the band leaning on their newly re-released early punk stuff. From an meh performance of ‘Hospital’ to an alright airing of ‘Style’ the first third of the band’s set is underwhelming, the middle-aged crowd barely moving. Dando is then left alone for an arguably worse solo section, the singer shrugging through classics like ‘Into Your Arms’ and ‘Hannah and Gabi’, which despite the audience singing along cannot deflect Dando’s lack of heart.
When the rest of the band return for short time The Lemonheads are briefly “The Fuckin’ Lemonheads”. ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’, ‘Stove’ and ‘Rudderless’ all blasted out like the band actually care, bassist Jen Turner pogoing all the way, while Dando’s guitar solo on ‘Confetti”s is the night’s high point. Their encore starts with a rousing ‘If I Could Tell You’ before quickly returning to their former mediocrity. A finale solo performance of Misfits’ ‘Skulls’ acts as a massive snub to those foolish enough to think the band might play ‘Mrs Robinson’ – yes, its still a cover but few if any of the crowd assembled tonight are aware of The Lemonheads’ hardcore punk roots and so it falls completely flat. Then its over and only 10pm – an utter disappointment.