To be fair, the old songs cast a shadow. Judging by the collective swoon of this mostly 40-and-up crowd, opener It’s About Time evoked the last decade of last century as surely as Dando’s changeless haircut, its strummed electric guitar and tuneful melancholy the soundtrack to many a share house session.
What does keep changing is The Lemonheads’ rhythm section. This night’s drummer and bassist weren’t even introduced, and possibly weren’t born when It’s A Shame About Ray was in the charts. Still, they had the “bubblegrunge” bounce down pat, especially when the keyboardist from support act The Restless Age joined them for stoner-funk anthem Style.
Dando, meanwhile, seemed to be trying just hard enough to sing The Great Big No, My Drug Buddy or Rudderless for the umpteenth time. Make too much effort and one supposes they wouldn’t sound like Lemonheads songs.
Three in a row from Varshons 2, this year’s covers album, saw Dando more engaged, interpreting the lyrics of John Prine and Lucinda Williams rather than rushing them like he sometimes did his own stuff. Best of all was Round Here, where the trio scraped the grease off Florida Georgia Line’s original and found its addictive three-chord churn.
Dando reminded us he’s a wonderful guitarist with a solo during Different Drum paying homage to Mike Nesmith’s song, while demolishing it.
An acoustic set was a highlight, Dando bringing out the cascading beauty of Ben Lee’s Hard Drive , and leading a campfire singalong for the still-hilarious Outdoor Type.
Then it was a mosh-worthy finish with two minutes of mordant melodicism that sum up The Lemonheads, If I Could Talk I’d Tell You – another pop gem on which Dando could safely rest his songwriting laurels if he chose.