Evan Dando fronts The Lemonheads at 9:30 Club on Dec. 12, 2022. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)
Thirty years ago, The Lemonheads released their most successful album, It’s A Shame About Ray. On Monday evening, they rolled into the 9:30 Club on the album’s anniversary tour, with support from longtime indie singer-songwriter (and sometime Lemonhead) Juliana Hatfield and the young band On Being An Angel.
The sold-out show was a smashing success by any measure!
Formed in the late 1980s, The Lemonheads came under the leadership of Evan Dando. With Evan at the helm, they created a mix of radio-friendly pop, punk, and country-rock. Many of the band’s biggest hits were offbeat covers. At 9:30 Club on Dec. 12, the band opened with “Into Your Arms,” (which was actually on the following year’s Come On Feel The Lemonheads), written by Robyn St. Clare. This song speaks to how conspicuous The Lemonheads were in the early-mid 90s; I wasn’t very aware of current music at that point in my life, and I remember hearing this song. Early in the set, they also covered the John Prine classic “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness,” which was recorded for their most recent release, 2019’s Varshons 2.
The first half, roughly, of the set drew from across their career, with covers of Gram Parsons (“I Just Can’t Take It Anymore”) and Smudge (“Tenderfoot,” which was recorded for 1996’s Car Button Cloth). The second number of the evening, “Hard Drive,” written by Ben Lee, appeared on Evan’s 2003 solo LP, Baby I’m Bored. Come on Feel The Lemonheads got a fair amount of play in this part of the show: “Great Big No,” “Down About It,” “It’s About Time,” and “Dawn Can’t Decide,” in addition to the aforementioned “Into Your Arms.” In addition to the Smudge cover, they played “Hospital” and “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You.”
In the second half of the set, The Lemonheads played It’s A Shame About Ray in the order the songs appear on the album. They didn’t play “Mrs. Robinson,” a cover of the Simon & Garfunkel classic that appeared as a bonus track — so technically, it’s fair to say it’s not really part of the album. (The track was added several months after the initial release of the record.)
The show ended with Evan playing solo electric on Townes Van Zandt’s “Snow Don’t Fall,” “Being Around,” and another Smudge cover, “The Outdoor Type.” The last song of the night was Kalmar Pal’s “Gloomy Sunday.”
Stream Kalmar Pal’s “Gloomy Sunday” by The Lemonheads on YouTube:
Before The Lemonheads took the stage, Juliana Hatfield played a 45-minute solo electric set. Hatfield, whose career began with the alternative band The Blake Babies in the late ’80s, has been consistently turning out great music for 35 years. While she flirted with major labels in the mid-’90s, during the explosion of grunge and alternative, she’s been independently releasing music for the last 25 years. Her biggest hit, “My Sister,” came, understandably enough, during her major label period, appearing on the Juliana Hatfield Three’s 1993 release, Become What You Are.
The house was absolutely packed on Monday night — the show was a sellout — but, particularly during Hatfield’s set, the venue felt smaller and more intimate. The audience had a lot of serious music fans, and they were really locked into the music, getting just about silent and giving the songs the attention they deserve. And make no mistake: Hatfield’s songs absolutely deserve that attention. Hatfield is a distinctive and talented musician, capable of blending smart, emotional, incisive lyrics with both alternative and pop sounds. She’s not afraid to wear her heart on the sleeve, or to show her passion for her influences, as she does on recent cover albums Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton John and Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police.
Hatfield’s set drew from across her career, opening with “Everyone Loves Me But You,” from 1992 solo debut, Hey Babe. The next song, “Candy Wrappers,” was recorded nearly 20 years on later, for 2011’s crowdfunded There’s Always Another Girl. “Somebody Is Waiting For Me,” another song about relationships, first appeared on Juliana’s Y2K album Beautiful Creature. (I first heard it upon its release on 2007’s The White Broken Line, a collection of live recordings.)
Stream a short live set, including “Wonder Why,” by Juliana Hatfield for KEXP on YouTube:
After “Wonder Why,” she reflected on her history with the venue, saying “We love the 9:30 Club, past and present.” Hatfield has been playing there since its previous, smaller incarnation. “Someone requested this,” she said of “Slow Motion.” She continued, “I don’t know if they’re here tonight, but they put it in my mind.” Before “My Sister,” she thanked Evan for bringing her along on the last 10 dates of their tour. The rest of her set included “Backseat,” “Everything’s For Sale,” and “Feelin’ Massachusetts,” ending with “I Got No Idols.”
This was my second time seeing Hatfield live, and she never disappoints. If you haven’t gotten into her work yet, there’s a lot of places you can dive in — she’s quite prolific, having released six albums since 2015, all of which are well worth listening to. There’s a reason Hatfield was picked to play on the (now sadly missed) Full Frontal With Samantha Bee: she makes truly outstanding music with a very personal, decidedly female and decidedly feminist perspective.
As a big plus, Juliana Hatfield joined The Lemonheads on stage for three of the songs during the It’s a Shame About Ray set — the title track, “Rudderless,” and “My Drug Buddy.” Witnessing those three tunes in performance alone as worth the price of admission.
This was a pretty long night for a Monday, with The Lemonheads playing more than 25 songs in their own set, plus the two supporting acts. For as long as it was, the crowd stayed engaged throughout, making this a fun show and a really great experience.
Here are some photos of Juliana Hatfield performing at 9:30 Club on Dec. 12, 2022, by Mickey McCarter.
And here are some photos of The Lemonheads performing at 9:30 Club on Dec. 12, 2022, thanks to Mickey McCarter!