Being old enough to have seen The Lemonheads plenty of times in the early 90’s, the fact they were returning to play the whole of one of my favourite albums, was a gigging opportunity which was not to be missed. Last time Evan Dando and his band toured the seminal ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’ album, I was a (slightly over-enthusiastic) teenage fanzine writer, and along with several other zine writing 90’s kids, managed to convince (or run past) any type of pretty non-existent security there was for the backstage area of The Boardwalk in Manchester, and ended up part of an impromptu fanzine press conference in The Lemonheads dressing room. Evan was the perfect host, answering a lot of pretty wacky questions (I bet the likes of The Times never asked if he preferred Twix or Wispas), whilst also handing out beers to us all throughout. 

It’s easy to get swept up in a wave of nostalgia when bands revisit their past glories for a celebratory gig, yet from the moment Evan took to the stage for an acoustic opening course, it was evident that this was more than a trip down memory lane. Walking on stage to huge cheers and adulation, Evan begins tuning up the acoustic guitar for a while, much to the bemusement of the crowd, before Dando’s ears were happy with the tone and he launches into one of the best versions of ‘The Outdoor Type’ I’ve ever heard, with the crowd singing along to every word, as they do to ‘Being Around’ from the sublime ‘C’mon Feel The Lemonheads’ album. Some songwriters have an innate gift for crafting perfect acoustic pop songs, the kind you can belt out at the top of your lungs, and Dando seems to be able to churn them out consistently throughout the decades, as we’re also treated to acoustic versions of ‘Hard Drive’ from Dando’s 2003 solo album ‘Baby I’m Bored’, as well as a delicate, yet powerfully beautiful, ‘Ride With Me’ from 1990’s ‘Lovey’ album.

With his drummer and bassist now on stage the trio launch into the main course, the classic 1992 album ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’, the opening fast paced guitar riffs of ‘Rockin’ Stroll’ sending The Ritz crowd into a mass sing-along, arms aloft, and the energy doesn’t dip throughout the whole album. Dando with shoulder length hair swinging from side to side, mostly obscuring his face, as he nods along ferociously with each song. Years of partying haven’t weathered his voice at all either, still roaring through the rockier tunes, yet delicate and hushed when it needs to be, it’s hard to believe it’s been thirty years since this album blasted into every discerning music fan’s consciousness. From the punked up frenetic melodies of tunes like ‘Rudderless’ and ‘Kitchen’ to the timeless laidback swing of ‘My Drug Buddy’ and the acoustic album closing cover ‘Frank Mills’ it’s a gig that’s greater than a mere musical history trip as amidst the assembled forty year old plus crowd, there are several younger generations there, proof that Dando’s brand of melodic guitar fuzz, transcends any scenes it may have been placed in. Despite their wide-eyed alarm at being on the edge of a middle aged moshpit (a few of us getting giddy and jumping around a bit!), it was clear that they cherished the band just as much as those who bore witness to The Lemonheads touring this album for the first time around. Ending the set with ‘The Great Big No’ from 1993’s ‘C’mon Feel The Lemonheads’, with no encore either, it’s a concise blast of The Lemonheads effervescent guitar melodies, With the crowd chanting “one more song”, stomping and clapping so much The Ritz’s sprung dancefloor is in danger of breaking a coil or two, it takes the road crew to get up on stage and finally convince everyone that’s it! A sublime slice of guitar pop perfection.

From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.