13th May 2009
Photos by Phil Procter
Evan Dando is in town to promote his newest venture, a covers album called ‘Varshons’, a wonderful mix of tracks from GG Allin, Christina Aguilera, Gram Parsons and Leonard Cohen to name but a few.
The Macbeth provides an unusually intimate venue for tonight’s show – given that on his previous trips to London Dando has sold out The Empire, Forum and Somerset House. Tonight’s venue is heaving by the time Dando bounds onto the tiny stage over half an hour late. It’s just him and his guitar standing alone in front of a few hundred ardent fans (some a little too ardent, but more of that later..). He drifts into ‘Outdoor Type’ and from there the pace rarely slackens, as he slips from track to track, his notebook open on the stage with a hastily scrawled set list and lyrics to some of the newer tracks.
‘Drug Buddy’, ‘Rudderless‘ and crowd pleaser ‘It’s a Shame About Ray‘ are all hollered back at the stage word perfect – there are a couple of girls at the front whose voices actually overtake Dando’s at some point. He keeps the chatter to a minimum, and seems a little shy of the attention, his hair falling over his face, shoulders hunched around his guitar. ‘Down About it‘ and ‘Into Your Arms‘ get just a few verses and a chorus each, as Dando flits about the set list, picking and choosing – and even taking requests from the crowd.
A cover of GG Allin’s tongue in cheek ‘Layin’ Up With Linda‘ is a glimpse at the new album, as it the sublime version of Gram Parson ‘ I Just Can’t Take it Anymore‘ – Dando’s wonderfully smooth country lilt is enough to give you goose bumps, Parsons would be proud.
A blonde hops onto the stage to provide backing vocals and dances around – which at first is ok with Dando, he even offers for her to sing a verse – but when she declines to leave the stage at the end of the song he gets visibly annoyed, and goes to leave, only returning to get his guitar, before the evening is saved by another audience member who hauls the girl and her friend off the stage. Well done that man.
Dando seems a little rattled by this, but returns to sing a few more tracks, including a half hearted version of ‘My Name is Luca‘ and then stunning renditions of ‘ Bit Part‘ and ‘Different Drum‘. There’s another upset when one of his lyrics sheets goes walking, and by the end of the evening his scrawl filled notebooks has gone walkabout too. Whilst it’s one thing to request a set list at the end of the night, stealing personal items is a step too far.
Tonight the Evan Dando we see is bashful, shy and humble in front of a packed room. He is -as ever- very understated, leaving the songs to do the talking. With 20 years of music under his belt, Dando has nothing to prove. Tonight’s show is simple but stunning, and goes to show that you don’t need the light shows, backdrops and pyrotechnics when you’ve got real talent.
Varshons is released on 15th June 2009. Look out for an interview with Evan Dando on this site soon.