Photo by Cara Totman
It takes a lot to get me to go out to the House of Blues. It's just a huge (by my standards) venue that rarely has artists I like playing. Plus, I hate parking near Fenway Park, and in the winter I hate a $5.00 coat check. But, how could I possibly say no to a double bill of Massachusetts rock legends Dinosaur Jr and The Lemonheads?
Seeing as this was a Big Rock Show opening up for another band at a huge hometown venue, I assumed this would be a night of big hits for Evan Dando and The Lemonheads. I was happily wrong. Sure, they played a ton of fan favorites, but they were hardly the bigger hits. There was no "Into Your Arms" or "It's a Shame About Ray" played on this Saturday night, and definitely no "Mrs. Robinson." This might have been the first time I've seen The Lemonheads or Evan Dando without them playing "The Outdoor Type." The more well known songs played this night were "If I Could Talk I'd Tell You" and "My Drug Buddy." Instead we got fan favorites like "Dawn Can't Decide," "Rudderless," "Stove," and even "Style," which I don't think I've ever seen live in the dozens of times I've seen The Lemonheads' various configurations. The Lemonheads are currently playing as a trio, although they were joined by Chris Brokaw and a keyboard player towards the end. Despite avoiding the Big Hit Cover (as they always do), Dando is not shy about busting out a few covers. The House of Blues show saw them playing John Prine's "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness," where they dropped their 90's alt-rock sound for pure country, and closed with The Bevis Frond's "Old Man Blank." Dando looked and sounded better than he has in years, and was obviously having a blast playing again despite being less chatty than I've ever seen him. The Lemonheads played that masterful combination of tight and loose, but sounded a little sloppy. But, that's how we want them to sound, so it was a perfect set for fans.
Dinosaur Jr opened their set with the classic "Bulbs of Passion" from their 1985 debut album. After that, they played five songs in a row from their latest album, Sweep It Into Space. It's a fine album and all, but it's more than a little laid back, and the last thing you're looking for with a Dinosaur Jr show is laid back. But, they have a new album to promote (even if J Mascis needs cue cards for the lyrics of this new album) and they got that out of the way quickly. (Plus, Lou Barlow did lead the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to his son Hendrix during this time, and that's always fun). After that, they broke out with 2007's "Been There All the Time," and never looked back. It was a night of absolute classic fan favorites like "The Wagon," "In a Jar," "Freak Scene," "Sludgefeast," "Gargoyle," and obviously "Feel the Pain." The encore was a dream trio of "Out There," "Little Fury Things," and their cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven," which I'm fairly certain they've been closing with for two decades now. This was a monster of a show, despite the slow start.
If there was any issue with the evening, it was muddled sound. I'm sure the beast that is a Dinosaur Jr live show can wreak havoc on your average sound system, but the vocals in particular were very muddled. I thought it might have been from me standing too close, but when I loved to the back for the encore there were still issues, particularly with Lou Barlow's microphone.