of five songs, including the ever-wonderful, and still
heart-warming, "Being Around" -- and it feels like a valuable and
intimate pre-show bonus.
When the rest of the bandmembers do arrive, they launch straight into "Rockin'
Stroll," the first track on the album, and transport all of us back to 1992 -- a feat aided by how well
Evan Dando has aged. He looks
just as scruffy, he seems just as whimsical, and he has retained his
boyish, sometimes mischievous, charm (he manages to turn the end of "Rudderless" into Danzig's "Mother"!). It's not that we'd forgotten the
majesty of this album in the years that have since passed, but there's
something truly magical about hearing It's A Shame About Ray live again tonight, after
such a long time.
"Rudderless" remains the finest song on the album, and is just as
powerful tonight as it has ever been. "Drug Buddy" maintains its stoned
charm, while "Alison's Starting To Happen" and "Ceiling Fan" provide us
with two of the most joyful, ebullient moments of the night. When Dando
pulls his acoustic back out for "Frank Mills," it prompts a mass
singalong, as if everybody just learned the song yesterday.
The execution of all this, we should note, is not perfect --
Dando can no longer hit some of the high notes, his voice cracks in places that it
shouldn't, and when the bassist attempts to harmonize on "Kitchen," it is disastrously off-key.
Where's Julianna Hatfield when you need her? (No, really -- where is
Julianna Hatfield these days? Tonight made us miss that sweet, sweet
voice of hers).
These flaws, though, don't really matter. More than
anything, they serve to remind us all of a time when indie bands didn't
have to be polished and perfect; when imperfections weren't problematic;
when things were a little less manufactured. No, the problems tonight
come after the Ray portion of the evening has finished -- that's when things get ramshackle to a frustrating degree.
There are sixteen more songs after Ray is over. And they are
paced in a manner that makes zero sense. It feels as if, rather than just
giving us a well-planned set of their finest material, The Lemonheads
are opting to chuck as much random stuff as they can at us, in
an order that lags, drags, and confuses.
While hearing the likes of "It's About Time", "Divan", "Down About It,"
and "Into Your Arms" is joyous, and while "Style," "Stove," and "If I
Could Talk I'd Tell You" inject some real energy into proceedings, the
setlist is so erratic that it makes it
difficult to know by the end of tonight if the band is coming or going, leaving or staying,
winning or... well, flogging a horse that was winning a race half an
hour ago, but now looks like it's struggling to even stand up.
It's hard to imagine anyone leaving tonight all that upset -- we did get to hear our favorite Lemonheads songs, after all. But the show would've been great had some control been exercised, had a few songs been cut, and if a concrete pacing plan had been in place. It's A Shame About Ray remains wondrous, but it's a shame the band under-prepared.