After a shaky start, a smooth finish for Lemonheads
More so than with other artists, there is always an element of risk in going to see the Lemonheads.
While leader Evan Dando is possessed of undeniable gifts as a singer and songwriter of irresistible, almost painfully perfect, pop songs, his history as a performer is more scattershot. He can go from sloppy to stellar, sometimes within the same performance.
Wednesday night at the Paradise, on a tour dedicated to playing the band’s 1992 alt-pop classic, “It’s a Shame About Ray,’’ in its entirety, Dando covered both ends of the spectrum in an 80-minute show that was ultimately solid but had some rough patches. There were a few false starts, including on the very first song, a string of painfully missed notes, and a sometimes wobbly looking Dando racing through some songs seemingly guided by muscle memory, truncating others, and offering a few vague mutters of apology.
Near the beginning of the show when the strain in his voice was most apparent, you could almost feel the collective energy of the packed crowd rooting Dando on as high notes loomed in songs like the title track and “My Drug Buddy.’’ While (we think) he said something about a lack of sleep, it seemed more like a lack of warm-up as he hit his vocal stride around “Kitchen’’ and brought the album to a close strongly, but without fanfare, with “Frank Mills.’’ (Dando opted not to perform the cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,’’ which appeared on later pressings of the disc.)
The performance also had some lovely high points with Dando’s silken voice hitting the sweet spot of many tunes, especially during a post-“Ray’’ solo segment that included gems like “The Outdoor Type,’’ “Being Around,’’ and the poignant “Why Do You Do This To Yourself?’’
Dando’s current Lemonheads cohorts - American Hi-Fi drummer Brian Nolan keeping things crisp, and Josh Lattanzi of the Candles on bass and MVP backing vocals - more than held up their end, bringing a sense of stability to the proceedings and welcome energy throughout, from the bristling swing of “Bit Part’’ to crackling renditions of “Layin’ Up With Linda’’ and “Big Gay Heart.’’
Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.