The Lemonheads - University Stylus, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

The Lemonheads - University Stylus, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:
The Lemonheads - University Stylus, Leeds
The Lemonheads - University Stylus, Leeds

I’ve been listening to The Lemonheads for a long time, the likes of It’s a Shame About Ray and Come On Feel have been on fairly heavy rotation since I first heard them. The melodic indie stylings held within having provided something of a personal soundtrack for, give or take, the last 20 years. With that in mind, it would be fair to say that I’ve got pretty high hopes for tonight’s gig. No pressure then, Mr. Dando.

Before Evan and Co take to the stage it’s time for South Carolina’s Heyrocco. The band has a clear affinity for 90’S alt-rock and energetically delivered slacker-pop. The title of their debut album, 2015’s Teenage Movie Soundtrack, is entirely apt.

“I hate almost everyone/ I am never 100 percent” sings vocalist/guitarist Nathan Merli over the insistently catchy grunge-pop of ‘Loser Denial’. They balance the angst out with songs like ‘On My Skateboard’; revelling in some long lost, endless and idealised teenage summer. The latter starting with some spontaneous dance moves from a thoroughly loosened up Merli.

The misty-eyed ‘Slice of Life’ finds the band slowing it down to great effect with a heartfelt college-rock swoon. The band wears their influences proudly, one song lifting a few recognisable lines from The Cure’s ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. Heyrocco might not be in the same league as their heroes but there’s still enough energy, fun and catchy melodies tonight to keep this Lemonheads fan more than happy.

Genuinely uplifting music that’s often drawn from a distinctly melancholy place; The Lemonheads have always managed to strike the right chord. ‘Hospital’, ‘Down About It’ and ‘The Great Big No’, tonight’s opening trio, excel at providing that sweetly melancholic, yet euphoric, indie-rock rush. We’re only a few songs in and I’ve found myself singing along. Not that shy, under your breath, kind of singing either.

Euphoria mixed with nostalgia, the songs are interwoven into my own musical backstory. Of course, nostalgia suggests something that’s been left behind and almost forgotten; this has never been true when it comes to The Lemonheads. It helps, of course, that the songs sound so fresh. Dando and Co sound confident and relaxed as they delve ever deeper into the band’s back-catalogue.

‘Hannah & Gabi’ remains one of the sweetest songs I’ve ever heard while a suitably bouncy ‘Confetti’ and passionately delivered ‘Rudderless’ keep me singing along. “Hope in my past” sings Dando. Well, indeed. What’s more my friend assures me that Mr. Dando is still looking undeniably “hot”.

There’s always been a lot of country in The Lemonheads and that’s explored beautifully with a cover of Lucinda William’s ‘Abandoned’. Dando’s comforting, sad-eyed, drawl getting every ounce of world-weariness from the lyrics, “all my love has been taken for granted”.

A big-hearted take on Gram Parson’s ‘I Just Can’t Take it Anymore’ and Yo La Tengo’s ‘Can’t Forget’ take us to a similar, sepia-tinged and melancholic place. Dando has always been a great interpreter of songs. Naturally, no Lemonheads set would be complete without the wonderful ‘Into Your Arms’ by obscure Australian duo The Love Positions. Yes, it’s a cover and yes it’s still absolutely perfect.

The now traditional stripped-back acoustic section yields mass sing-alongs to both ‘The Outdoor Type’ by Smudge and ‘Frank Mills’ from Hair. The latter finding the crowd enthusiastically joining in with every word. The likes of ‘Bit Part’, ‘Being Around’ and ‘Hard Drive’ could still melt the hardest of hearts. There are few musicians better at holding an audience with little more than an acoustic guitar. Subtle additions from the band’s lead guitarist are sprinkled over the songs before the whole band comes back in for a somewhat glorious take on Michael Nesmith’s ‘Different Drum’.

A career-spanning set, it’s great to hear the likes of ‘Left for Dead’ and ‘Stove’ nestled amongst the various singles, albums cuts, solo songs, and covers. ‘If I Could Talk I’d Tell You’ is probably still the chirpiest song I’ve ever heard about antidepressants while the brilliant ‘Big Gay Heart’ never fails to raise a smile. As a long-term fan, it’s an absolute joy.

The band finally knocks it out of the park with a superb reading of Nick Cave’s ‘Straight to You’. Dando changes a lyric to reference his Dad who spent time working as an English teacher. Sheepishly informing us that he “wasn’t joking” before disappearing into the night.

Dando is typically laid-back throughout yet it’s clear that he’s put everything into tonight’s sprawling and impressive set. The effort has definitely paid off. I go to a lot of gigs but it’s rare that I get home with a sore throat from singing along at the top of my lungs. If you’re a fan and you haven’t caught up with The Lemonheads in a while then I really can’t recommend it enough. I’ll be singing these songs forever.

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