“If I Could Talk I’d Tell You” – The Lemonheads
(Words/music: Evan Dando and Eugene Kelly, available on Car Button Cloth, Atlantic 1996)
While much of the world watched LeBron James announce his departure to Miami last Thursday night, I tried my best to read his lips. Earlier in the day, I made the choice to pass on “The Decision” in order to see the Lemonheads play in Milford, CT. Even though I couldn’t pry any of my friends (most of which silently hoped James would play for the Knicks) away from the announcement, I still went with little to no idea what to expect in setlist or lineup, save for Evan Dando. If nothing else, I was curious to see what this current incarnation had to offer.
What transpired caught me off guard. Dando, backed by two members of the opening band The Candles, plowed through almost all of the high notes from his catalog. The songs sounded as effervescent as ever, with Dando’s voice miraculously sounding like his mid-‘90s prime. The most striking part, however, was the crowd. A majority of the crowd looked a few years older than me (a stark inversion of how I usually feel at shows these days) yet erupted with unbridled joy at an astounding frequency. Within a few notes of just about every song, hands clapped and voices whooped in approval, shortly followed by many singing along. This wasn’t just on the hits (of which there were many, at least relatively speaking) but literally every song. Dando, who grew a bit more skittish in his banter as the night progressed, nonetheless fed off the crowd’s enthusiasm even as he flubbed a couple songs.
The most telling part of the night came in the introduction to “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You.” The song features the kind of simple yet infectious melody and spry accompaniment that Dando seemed to churn out effortlessly in the early ‘90s. Even if it wasn’t at the top of the list of songs I wanted to hear (“It’s a Shame About Ray” and recent favorite “No Backbone”) or the one I was most excited to hear (a solo cover of Big Star’s “Night Time”), it was the most indicative song of the set both in composition and in audience reaction. “This next one starts with a drum fill,” he said, tinkering with the tuning knobs on the top of his road worn white Gibson. “You all know how it goes.” He was right – people bobbed their heads and sand along to the song, but it wasn’t unique to this song. It was one of the most enthusiastic crowds I’d seen in a long time. My guess it was repayment for a disproportionate number of classics and personal favorites.
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