Fortunately, last night at the Old Rock House, we got the former. By the time he came out with guitar in hand and broke into "Being Around" I felt like a traitor for not being dressed in ripped jeans and a plaid flannel shirt.
Massachusetts native Meredith Sheldon opened the proceedings at the Old Rock House around 8:15 p.m. with a solo tune before her band joined her onstage for a 25-minute set. The first thing I noticed was that Meredith's vocals were buried in the mix and blending in with her guitar, making her very hard to hear. Once the band kicked in, her vocals became mostly inaudible. The music itself was the slower side of mid-tempo with a heavy bass/midrange presence. During a trip to the loo, I noticed that the speakers in the men's room were highlighting the vocals so I took a minute to listen to Meredith's voice.
She has a fantastic alto and a lot of strength in her voice. The combination was a lot like listening to a copy of the Breeders' "Pod" from an alternate universe where Julie Doiron was singing lead. All in all not an unpleasant experience, but it would have been a lot better if the vocals had been louder in the club itself.
Around 9:30 p.m. Dando took the stage with his acoustic guitar and ran through a six-song acoustic set before being joined by the newest incarnation of the Lemonheads, consisting of Taking Back Sunday bassist Fred Mascherino and former Bad Brains drummer Chuck Treece. Once the band hit the stage, they immediately launched into "Rockin' Stroll" and ran through the entire "It's A Shame About Ray" album with a mercifully-short new song that Evan interjected between "The Turnpike Down" and "Bit Part." The song was a basic 12-bar blues tune that sounded very out of place and forced, almost as if it were a Chappelle's Show skit about white guys playing the blues.
The "Ray" set ended with the band leaving the stage and Evan crooning out an a capella version of "Frank Mills," the last track of the original pressing of the album. He then strummed the first few chords of "Mrs. Robinson" before stopping, mumbling something into the microphone and laughing as the rest of the band rejoined him. They proceeded to run through another handful of tunes from the Lemonheads discography along with a few covers before ending the show with a fantastic rendition of "Style" from the album "Come on Feel the Lemonheads."
Although there were a few times where Dando looked confused or had to refer to a notebook on stage for chords and such, the show was non-stop action from beginning to end. I did notice that he avoided a lot of the higher parts in the songs, either by changing to a lower register for the "hope in my past" chorus of "Rudderless" or just not singing as with the "Hells Angels" line from "Frank Mills."
As far as the "It's A Shame About Ray" portion of the show, the songs sounded like they did on the album -- only with a harder edge. It makes me wish I'd have seen the original lineup back in '92 when the album was released.
I went to the show with low expectations since the bands of my youth never seem to sound as bright as they did back then. Evan and company played a set that was as fresh and original as the first time I threw "It's A Shame About Ray" in the CD player after having received it for Christmas 20 years ago. Evan's voice doesn't seem to have changed at all, and neither have the memories it brought back.