Throwing fits: Dando's star power flickers

Evan Dando
Starr Hill Music Hall
October 12, 2003

One fleeting moment Sunday night, as the stage lights shone especially white and hot upon Evan Dando's face and he looked up into them intently, his head cocked far back... I thought that heaven was upon him.

Oh, you'd know he was a star, even if you didn't know his name. Once the Lemonheads' sweetheart, and a true Gen-X pin-up, Dando seems frozen light-years away: the long hair, the distant, druggy eyes (under his bangs), and his gentle head-bob when the band gets rockin'.

His songs are light passing breezes that pick you up off the ground and put you back down a few feet away. They sound like a high school crush soundtrack (see Confetti): honest feelings without any of the perspective that would alleviate your confusion. And while lesser idols write songs this catchy, few coat their melodies in such a warm, friendly, molasses croon.

Dando's quartet rang every Pavlovian alterna-pop bell: the same (not-too-thick) guitar distortion on every song, bouncy drumbeats, an occasional whine of feedback before launching into the next chorus. The songs felt old, but the performance was vital. Dando's utter watchability is everything rock is cracked up to be– visceral, present, and un-self-conscious.

Or, if Dando was acting self-consciously, he must be a pretty creepy guy. Five seconds into the second acoustic song of the set, he threw a tantrum. There was no clear motive for Dando's departure, nor did he seem outwardly perturbed. He gave a sudden "Thanks for coming, and good night," and darted off the stage. Ten minutes later, Dando returned to his solo repertoire without explanation.

Strangely enough, his lyrics felt more compelling post-tantrum. Dando sang, "I want a bit part in your life" with sublime sweetness. Some girls teared up noticeably, and some boys screamed more urgently than I've heard at football games. Couples stood close, sighing and frowning, even as the acoustic set sagged under the sameness. Ten minutes or so after his return, Dando again suddenly departed.

Dando's broken-hearted fans may wonder whether he's an emotional wreck or just a bratty prima donna, but it doesn't really affect the drama of his performance. A few of the night's songs-­ moments, the mere brush of an idea-­ led the audience right into the traps our star had set out for them.

And not a soul could have asked any more of him and expected to get it.

Evan Dando