There was a period of a couple years, more than a decade ago now, when Evan Dando was one of the kings of rock-staying in Seattle with Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love and being named "Sexiest Man Alive" by People magazine-and there was a time, more recently, when he was one of the kings of crack.
I would confuse him for the actor who played the little boy named 'Chris' in the film Stand By Me. I would listen to Car Button Cloth while mopping floors as a janitor. I'd see Juliana Hatfield out around Boston, but I would never see Evan Dando and then I just stopped thinking about him.
There was a time recently when I started thinking about him again, caused not so much by a Vagrant Records press release but more or less just sentimental longing for my hometown's rock scene brought on from listening repeatedly to The Lot Six's Get Baked On Youth Kulture.
He came back to the stage all apologies, 'I didn't mean to just leave like that but I needed to smoke and I can't smoke up here, but now that I'm back you guys are gonna be stuck with me for a while longer now.'
Evan Dando's brilliant return to my life came Friday night at Southpaw where he played to all the king's horses and all the king's men.
Still angry that Dando would intentionally play the "Sweet Child O Mine" riff during all of his songs, former band mate and co-founder of Lemonheads Ben Diely was not present, same for Ben Folds, and Ben Lee wasn't there either, though some songs he wrote were performed. Ben 'Buddy Lee' Kweller did take the stage for the first three songs of the night, however.
Ben Kweller's "It's Up to You" was the first song the two performed together, followed by a new Lemonheads song which featured the lines "all that I ask/is that this promise lasts/Until I can stand on my own" and ending with the Neil Young "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" from the 1969 album of the same name.
Before coming back for two encores, Dando played thirteen songs from his most recent Bar/None release Baby, I'm Bored and his former/current band's work, closing his opening set with "My Drug Buddy" from It's A Shame About Ray and a song he co-wrote with Baby producer Jon Brion, "Why Do You Do This to Yourself."
He came back to the stage all apologies, "I didn't mean to just leave like that but I needed to smoke and I can't smoke up here, but now that I'm back you guys are gonna be stuck with me for a while longer now."
And come back he did. In place of my desire to hear the songs played with a backing band, was happiness that he was performing a solely acoustic set, allowing for more seamless interchanging of songs, and they came one after another over and over-thirteen in total.
He started his first encore by asking what to play and ripped into another song off Baby, I'm Bored, "My Idea", written by Tom Morgan and Chris Brokaw and released on Brokaw's album, Wandering As Water. He then played "Rudderless," "All My Life," which was written by Ben Lee for Evan from Dando's perspective, and "Hospital" from Car Button Cloth.
Moved by the reaction to these songs, watching him on stage I couldn't help but think this is why he's reforming a band called The Lemonheads, still playing shows, still alive. He's a performer and performing music satiates Evan Dando in a way that nothing else can. He played "Ride With Me," the Smudge song "Tenderfoot," "Shots Is Fired" and another Ben Lee song written about Dando, "I Wish I Was Him" with the lyrics "I wish I was him/He gets the girls at his feet/With all his cool friends/He gets his records for free/I wish I was him".
No better way to celebrate himself than rip into the 'kinda shoulda sorta woulda song' "Confetti" and exit the stage. There's also no better way to again articulate what seems to really embody his career than return to the stage once again after a smoke and say "I'm kinda tired of playing the old songs. I mean, I love playing them for you, but I want to play some other stuff too."
So he started into Elliott Smith's "Thirteen" not even a second after a request was screamed out. Into the second verse, when reaching the lines "Won't you tell your dad 'get off my back'?/Tell him what we said about 'Paint It Black,'" Dando reminded me why I was thankful for the presence of his acoustic guitar. He then played a verse of the Rolling Stones song, the final verse of "Thirteen" and a verse of another Stones song, "Play With Fire," singing "Your mother she's an heiress, owns a block in St. John's Wood," with an overly deep, humorous voice.
Evan had me thinking hard.
The following night I was still talking about the show with Wayne Rogers of Boston's Major Stars and Steve Lowenthal of Swingset magazine. "He's always brilliant!" Wayne kept saying, "Always!"
Lowenthal wanted the dirt "Was he smoking crack on stage?"
The re-shoot of Cocksucker Blues will have to wait until Babyshambles plays again because there was no crack smoking-while on stage.
However, Dando asked "Does anyone got any coke? All right, meet me after the show" and closed his show with a hysterical rendition of The Frogs' "Homos" from their classic album It's All Right And Natural before playing his own "Big Gay Heart" - a song named after the "Big Gay House" owned by friend of Dando, Johnny Depp.
Just when I thought I was starting to mature I hear "Homos" and need to spend countless hours debating favorite Milwaukee bands, "Oh mom, was always wondering why I was into sports/Oh mom, was always wondering why I was staying after school/I'm into sports mom and I'm also in the locker room with the boys/I'm in the shower and I drop the soap every time/Homos, no one knows a homo like us."
With lyrics like that, The Frogs are surely at the top of my list.
In the mean time, watch out for that Evan Dando guy. He's trouble.