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Rock

academy, Dublin

With his long scraggy hair, beard and over-sized plaid shirt, Evan Dando looks like a refugee from 1992. It's as if grunge never went away.

Dando never went away either although it sometimes felt like that because his band never came close to achieving the popularity they enjoyed 20-odd years ago with their fifth and sixth albums, It's A Shame About Ray and Come On Feel the Lemonheads.

Both records provide the Bostonian with a large portion of his set-list tonight, with 'It's A Shame About Ray' played in its entirety during the gig's middle section. It's the most vital part of a frustrating gig, partly because Dando is joined on stage by a bassist and drummer -- the latest in a long line of musicians who have passed through the Lemonheads' revolving doors since the band was formed in 1987.

Both the title song and 'Bit Part' sound especially potent, although it's disappointing that there's no 'Mrs Robinson' cover -- Dando's slacker version had adorned later pressings of the album and helped give his group mass appeal. And, truth be told, the business of playing favourite albums like this has become a little tired.

Proceedings take a while to pick up. For the first 20 minutes, the 44-year-old singer is alone on stage and giving a very good impression of someone going through the motions. He gallops from one song to the next like one seemingly desperate to get his slight, but pretty songs 'Being Around', 'Hard Drive' and 'The Outdoor Type' over and done with.

After It's a Shame About Ray is performed -- a process that takes just over half an hour -- Dando returns with 'Frank Mills', which the crowd sing back word-perfect, and there's a fine moment where he and his bandmates crank up the energy for a barnstorming take on 'The Great Big No', one of his very best songs.

Another strong moment is provided courtesy of a John Prine cover. 'Sam Stone' works especially well, with Dando's softly bruised vocals adding potency to this arresting tale of a Vietnam War veteran with a heroin problem.

Unfortunately, the quality of Prine's songwriting shows just how inconsequential many of Dando's own tunes are.

A patchy night ends on a high with 'Style' -- a veritable anthem for Generation X as Dando sings "Don't wanna get stoned/ But I don't wanna not get stoned".

One imagines it is a dilemma he has wrestled with on numerous occasions.

Irish Independent