The Lemonheads/Shining Twins /Kevin Junior; October 21, 2011; Double Door, Chicago
It’s hard to know whether to be happy or sad for the Lemonheads as they continue on the It’s a Shame about Ray tour. On one hand, it’s a shame that the 1990-something record remains their biggest commercial success, due mostly to the popularity of their upbeat, accelerated cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” and this tour just seems to be a way of capitalizing on that. On the other hand, it’s pretty amazing that Evan Dando is still around to assemble a band to do these tours given his documented propensity for self-destructive behavior, especially early in his career. Then of course there is the irony that the original release of Ray didn’t even include “Mrs. Robinson,” and it is well known that Dando doesn’t like to play it live.
He had it both ways tonight. After running through the first twelve songs on the under thirty minute release, he started the final track, singing the first line before aborting it and going into “The Outdoor Type.” No complaints here, the track from the underrated Car, Button, Cloth is my absolute favorite Lemonheads song. His hilarious confession of pretending to be outdoorsy just to get the girl amuses me every time. “Never rolled a sleeping bag, let alone a mountain bike,” he admits, “I lied about being the outdoor type.” And that isn’t even my favorite line- that honor goes to this classic, “I can’t go away with you on a rock climbing weekend, what if something’s on TV and it’s never shown again.” “We can go now,” I announced at the song’s completion, even though I didn’t mean it.
Following the set list dictated by the CD, Dando had kept the show moving during its first half. He didn’t talk much as they played the familiar tunes. After that things got a little more random, and he could have used a set list for the rest of the night. He played songs as they came into his head, and sometimes that took awhile. Perhaps more requests would have helped, he’s always been good about taking suggestions (how do you think I got “The Outdoor Type” played when he opened for Aimee Mann so many years ago) and it seemed like he could have used some. He did hit many of my other favorites, most of those from Come On Feel the Lemonheads, their follow-up to Ray. “A Great Big No,” “Into Your Arms” and the very silly “Being Around” all sounded great. “Big Gay Heart” was just as odd as the first time I heard it. Things got weirdly sloppy after that. Dando invited some friends up and they played several songs, one unlikely choice was the Beastie Boys “You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party.” After one song, Dando took a seat behind the drum kit and started playing. It was the happiest I’d seen him all night.
During the show a movie played behind the band. It appeared to be taken through the windshield of a car as they drove around, much of it in Chicago. They could have filmed on the way to the venue except it was raining in the video, and tonight was clear enough that we had eaten outside under a heat lamp at the trendy Mexican restaurant Big Star down the street. Often these videos are distracting, and I find myself watching it instead of the band, but this one was so innocuous that I didn’t pay much attention to it. Which was also true of the opening bands. The hilariously hairsprayed Kevin Junior opened. Apparently he was from Chamber Strings, a band I’d never heard of that had a buzz a few years back. It was fine, but uninteresting. The second opener was a bit of a surprise. I predicted I would hate it as I watched one of the band members set up her awkward drum kit. Despite the fact that Shining Twins consisted of just two girls, who both sang, for half their set (they were joined but a dude on guitar for the other half), they were totally listenable, even enjoyable. In this case the answer to the question, “what’s worse than one girl singer?” was not “two girl singers.” No one was more surprised than me.