LIVE REVIEW: EVAN DANDO & JULIANA HATFIELD @ METRO THEATRE (20.12.2012)

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The Metro hosted two members of alt-rock royalty just before Christmas. This man and woman made beautiful music together and are known to us as Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield. They’re also present friends; one-time enemies; long-time collaborators and are both current members of The Lemonheads. So naturally, the set drew largely from the group’s discography and famous covers; as well as the individuals’ solo material, Hatfield’s former band, Blake Babies and much more.

These two American musicians do have some shared history with Australia. Dando has written Lemonhead songs here, the group had a hit with “Into Your Arms” (originally by The Hummingbirds) and he’s also collaborated with our very own, Ben Lee. It was actually a cover of Lee’s “All My Life” (previously included on Dando’s solo album, Baby I’m Bored) that opened the proceedings.

The night was all about true, no fuss entertainment by two consummate professionals. The pair were nonchalant as they sauntered onto an empty stage save for their guitars and amps. Hatfield stuck to playing the one electric guitar while Dando mostly played acoustic (although he swapped this for an electric towards the end of the set). There was no prima donna behaviour- it was just two firm friends and tight musicians letting their music stand up for itself. It certainly achieved this because although we had mostly heard these tunes way back in the nineties, they still hold weight to this day.

Hatfield was in fine spirits, bringing a soft feminine quality to the show while Dando proved her perfect foil as they swapped vocals and exchanged riffs with aplomb. It was like everything was in its right place because at some times Dando offered volume while Hatfield gave space for quiet. They even sat like polite school kids during some of the later songs, leaving the other to steer things alone (although Hatfield did lie on stage during her down time, it was THAT laid back).

The lovely lady’s solo track, “Butterflies” was full of warm, guitar riffs that were like an eagle soaring during the moments where it wasn’t embracing you in a sentimental hug and sending you off dreaming into the land of Nod. The Lemonheads’ “Down About It” was a more melancholic number. Written in Sydney, it had the kind of lyrics and guitar work that reminded me of one of Dinosaur Jr.’s finest. In fact, just watching the pair with their cool attitude, great voices and conveying the right level of angst with such proficient guitar work, I couldn’t help but think of Mr J. Mascis himself.

The Lemonheads’ “Rudderless” and “Hospital” received a warm reception from the crowd but it was their hit, “It’s A Shame About Ray” that proved a real highlight. The key riff sounded brilliant on an acoustic guitar and it was really heart-warming to see your idols all grown up and in such a good space both musically and mentally.

Hatfield gave us her very own “Candy Wrappers” and Blake Babies’ “Baby Gets High”- the latter was a classic break-up song with an alt-country feel. The two looked so comfortable and made it appear so effortless during Hatfield’s “Tourist”. The darling would admit that it had been a long time between drinks (i.e. visits) but that she’d be back again soon. This pleased the crowd, especially after we were treated to a cover of Graham Parsons’ “$1000 Wedding”. It was great but the best cover of the evening was the climactic version of The Velvet Undergrounds’ “Pale Blue Eyes” in the encore.

Another cover, “I Wish I was Him” proved to be really fun and tongue-in-cheek. This was another Ben Lee cover and a song originally about Lee’s overwhelming desire to be Mr Dando. It received some well-deserved laughs at the lyrics about deciphering Pavement lyrics and cheers when discussing the man’s affection for The Beastie Boys. It clicked well with Hatfield who offered her very own defiant ditty. The number was “My Sister”, written by her own pen about a gal she called “Such a b**ch”, while singing with her best riot grrl impression.

The final songs of the set and encore included the Lemonhead institutions (complete with requisite fan sing-alongs) “Into Your Arms”, “My Drug Buddy” and “The Outdoor Type”. Dando also took some time out to do his best Morrissey impersonation (because The Smiths’ front man was also in town). Dando did a short and very camp, a capella version of “How Soon Is Now?” It wasn’t the only joke of the night but a lot of these had been lost at the back of the Metro. Although their voices had been muffled between tracks, this thankfully didn’t affect the actual songs too much.

Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando’s show had been a pleasant trip down memory lane. They had offered paired-back versions of old favourites sans band and other trinkets. They had used an unfussy approach and came without any overbearing bells and whistles, meaning the spotlight was placed firmly on the songs that had warmed your heart cockles and captured your minds as a youngster. In 2012 it had also left us all feeling a little younger and with great, big smiles on our faces. Good times.

Originally published on 23 December 2012 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/evan-dando-juliana-hatfield-metro-theatre-sydney-20-12-12

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

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