Preston 53 Degrees
That term tortured genius springs to mind when I think of the supremely-talented Evan Dando, charismatic frontman of 1990s’ US outfit The Lemonheads.
The Boston-born troubadour dropped by upstairs at UCLan’s music venue on his way to Glastonbury, in an acoustic set showcasing one big man, his guitar and wondrous voice.
If there were concerns that a surprisingly-poor turnout might inspire an early dart, those proved unfounded – Dando fitting 28 songs into a 75-minute set.
The bulk of those songs were from the albums that turned many of us on to his talent two decades ago, It’s a Shame About Ray and Come on Feel the Lemonheads.
Dando’s led a complicated life, the sex, drugs and general rock’n’roll excess well documented.
But he’s still with us, and for that we can only be thankful.
It’s a tall order to engage an audience when you say so little, but his superior song-craft saw him through, and from the moment he ambled on in a scruffy fleece and launched into Down About It, we were in the palm of his hands.
Despite a focus on his commercial peak, the songs from 2003 solo album Baby I’m Bored – including the revelatory Why Do You Do This To Yourself? and sublime My Idea – suggested he was still on his game a decade later.
With the songs down to the bare bones, you could also clearly hear the country feel beneath the indie, and not just on covers of Long Black Limousine and Gram Parsons’ How Much I’ve Lied.
There were hints of Elvis Costello too, and Lucinda Williams’ Big Red Sun Blues, Victoria Williams’ Frying Pan and Ben Kweller’s It’s Up To You hit the spot. But it was Dando’s own catalogue that made the night.
His voice was as stirring as ever on Big Gay Heart, It’s About Time, Paid to Smile and Rudderless, and Hannah and Gabi showcased his way with words.
An inspired version of Smudge’s Divan ended his main set, but within a minute he was back for It’s A Shame About Ray and Frank Mills before an almost hymnal a capella run through Billie Holiday’s Gloomy Sunday, a perfect end to a pared-down but powerful set.