|Evan Dando and the reincarnated Lemonheads played their sweet and tart alt-rock at the Paradise Tuesday. (PIPER FERGUSON)|
As if to remind us of his great, wasted talent, Evan Dando and the umpteenth incarnation of the Lemonheads performed "It's a Shame About Ray" front to back at the Paradise Rock Club Tuesday night. The band's 1992 breakthrough album, a joyful rush of noisy pop, has just been rereleased by Rhino Records in a collector's edition, begging the question: Isn't 15 years a bit too soon to be repackaging alt-rock pinups for the nostalgia bin?
In Dando's case, the answer, sadly, is no. At 41, he's still the proverbial beautiful mess, a gifted artist who could never quite get past his own taste for self-destruction. It's a complicated equation, though, because "My Drug Buddy" is the best song ever about scoring. And "Rick James Style" is a woozy, mesmerizing portrait of a problem: "Don't wanna get stoned/ But I don't wanna not get stoned," Dando sang for a near-full hometown house, confused and charismatic as ever.
Dando had his finger on the pulse of something, and he let it go years ago. But the unfulfilled promise of stardom shouldn't be confused with an artistic fall. For all the aimless filler and down time, Dando was and is a skilled, and immensely appealing, musician. Backed by Vess Ruhtenberg and Devon Ashley of Indianapolis band the Pieces, Dando careened through more than two-dozen obscure and familiar songs in 75 minutes. Dando's voice remains warm and boyishly disenchanted, a perpetual foil to the filthy guitar parts he slathered over everything from country-folk ("The Outdoor Type") to blistering rockers like "Bit Part" and "Alison's Starting to Happen."
While his solo songwriting has veered away from noisy detours and moved closer to a troubadour's sturdy fare, Dando's electric guitar was set to scathing all night, no matter how sweet or tender the tune. He followed a ripped solo version of "Frank Mills" with the Misfits' "Skulls" and went on to a wide-ranging selection of covers: Victoria Williams's "Frying Pan," the Linda Ronstadt hit "Different Drum," Neil Young's "Don't Cry No Tears."
Dando's only misstep, and it was a doozy, was a train wreck of a duet with Urge Overkill's Nash Kato on his band's "Pulp Fiction"-ized version of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon." For a few dire moments it seemed the encore might be a microcosm of Dando's derailed career.
But he brought it back from the brink with a breakneck take on the Lemonheads gem "If I Could Talk I'd Tell You" - it was bristling, charming, barely in tune, and completely perfect.
Joan Anderman can be reached at email@example.com.