Recap: The Lemonheads at Northern Lights

Guests at Northern Lights last week jumped at the opportunity to spend some time in what felt and sounded like a movie from the 90s, starring the Lemonheads.

Clifton Park was among the 50 added US dates to the extended “It’s A Shame About Ray” tour dedicated to playing the 1992 hit record of the same name. The Lemonheads were first formed in 1986 by Evan Dando, and Dando remains the band’s only original member in its modern form.

Local power-pop rock trio Charlie Watts Riots were among the opening acts. A female-led trio that I failed to catch the name of (replacing the Shining Twins on the bill) played prior to the Lemonheads. The lead singer looked a lot like a girl I went to high school and their music fit into the night, playing grungy, mellow rock with sultry vocals beneath a sea of too-bright lights.

Past members of the Lemonheads included members who once played in Dinosaur Jr., the Descendants and the Blake Babies, among other bands. The Lemonheads are an example of a band that climbed their way from college radio audiences to playing shows alongside influential bands like Fugazi and the Pixies. The band gained national success from the release of It’s a Shame About Ray, which was then followed up with a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” which became one of the band trademark singles and was also used to promote the film The Graduate.

Seeing Dando play in 2k12 was more nostalgic than anything else, but it wasn’t my own nostalgia I was experiencing, as I am too young for that. It felt more transcended, like that of an entire decade except less romantic of an idea and Kurt Cobain wasn’t hiding backstage anywhere. The audience was very diverse age-wise, and I didn’t know a soul aside from the staff.

Dando still portrayed some of his charm, despite hiding behind unruly dirty blonde hair and minimally addressing the audience. Back in 1993, he made People‘s 50 Most Beautiful People list, backing all claims of his mysterious boyish good looks. Dando is a bit of a weirdo (and from reading past interviews, always has been) in that he plays the “I’m Misunderstood” card well to this day, and has an elusive nature about him on stage. During his performance, at times, his band would clear the stage and we’d have Dando all to ourselves, backing his vocals with acoustic guitar, in a selection of songs spanning his 25-year-old archive.

Considering that the premise of the evening was the dedicated live performance of an album written 20 years ago, Dando and his band still managed to play as though they haven’t played through it a billion times before, at least from the audience’s point of view. In the two-and-a-half hour long set, there was passion somewhere in there deep from the core, even if Dando’s stage presence didn’t have him diving into a swaying crowd.

I found it funny that the review in Metroland review of the show, some details were admittedly fuzzy and the writer mentioned losing his notes and not picking out certain track names, etc. I think it was an accurate portrayal; we all kind of got lost in the night. Whether it was the nostalgic trip talking or the allure of watching a bone-fide has-been rock star, the evening had a picturesque quality and I feel like I can cross a band off my “must-see” bucket list. Don’t tell Dando I said that though.

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