The Lemonheads, Epic Studios, Norwich, 11th October 2022

Words and photos by Mark Stimpson

The Lemonheads are an American rock back who grew to fame in the 1990 not wholly due of their music but also to the antics of lead singer Evan Dando. This year marks the 30th Anniversary of The Lemonheads’ careerdefining album ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’, a work described as the ‘allkiller, nofiller, generationx grunge equivalent to Pet Sounds’. So when it was announced that they would tour the UK to celebrate the anniversary it seemed like it would be the must see tour of 2022. Indeed, early reviews in September seemed to back this up. Courtney Love had even made a guest appearance at the Roundhouse, duetting with Evan on ‘Into Your Arms’

However, as the tour progressed the wheels had started to fall off the wagon. Set times had dramatically fallen from an incredible 37song set that ran for over two hours at the start of the tour to just 75 minutes by the time they reached Brighton. Evan was reported to look frail and tired. I arrived early to the venue with a sense of anticipation of a night of great music. I headed for the bar to grab a pint. Evan was already there, pint of something in his hand. I asked if he would sign my CD which he kindly did. I asked how the tour was going and he replied it was great. We then talked about life on the road. He seemed a little worse for wear. There was a faraway look in his eyes as he said theyve ripped my off my music, listen referring to the current track that as being played in the background. He muttered something and turned and wandered off.

The evenings music opened with, Bass Drum of Death, the American garage punk trio from Oxford, Mississippi. They put on a great performance which made me think of early 70s rock. Their songs were only 2 3 minutes long but still had the audience bopping along.

After the break Evan Dando wandered on stage carrying a battered guitar to begin his acoustic solo set. He looked even worse than he did 2 hours earlier. Sporting a dirty jacket, he looked more like a busker than a rock icon. My heart sank as he launched into his first song, busker it is then. Im thinking that either Im either in the presents of a musical genius or this is the worlds biggest shit show. He mumbled something about Courtney Love being in the UK, and how he loved Kate Moss, but she was “probably walking on a beach in Mustique, or somewhere”, but the rest of what he said was totally unintelligible. He struggled with his acoustic guitar as rambled through his songs. Several times he started a song, play a few notes before forgetting what he was playing before moving on to another song. This was a train out of control and not even the sporadic audience calls of ‘Evan, we love you! could stop it. When he had finished his set, the guitar was thrown to the floor. The band appeared on stage for the second part of the set, songs from ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’ Its pretty obvious that all is not well in team Lemonheads, the tour guitarist is missing, leaving just a bass player and drummer. The show case gig is turning into a farce, Evans playing became more erratic as the night progresses playing and his voice is increasingly fragile. At one point Evan struggled to remember the words and how to play his guitar, leaving drums and bass to carry on without him like a cheap karaoke show. At this point several members of the audience had seen enough and made their exit, it was becoming uncomfortable to stand and watch.

At the end of the final track from ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’ the band simply walked off leaving Evan alone and slightly lost. Evan tried to carry on, but only made it as far as one more song but he was too far from the mic to be heard. Not deterred he climbed behind the drumkit and attempted to conduct a singalong version of The Eagles’ love song. ‘Lyin’ Eyes’. Not sure why he did this but perhaps it was safer sitting than standing. However, realising that the game was up and the train would travel no further, Evan stood up and wandered dejectedly off stage. No one was shouting for more or another song. In fact the near capacity audience had dwindled to just a handful.

What should have been a celebration of ‘It’s a Shame About Ray’ had turned, instead, into an evening of ‘It’s a shame about Evan’. It was a tragedy to watch and should never have gone ahead. The venue admitted they had concerns about Evans behaviour during the day but decided not to cancel as they didnt want fans to be disappointed. I think the evening is best forgotten.


Philip Goddard

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