Evan Dando: Edinburgh Wilkie House

Ex-Lemonhead returns to the stage a solo troubadour...

The big question, of course, is – will Evan Dando be with us tonight? Granted, he might very well be here in person (although this is no certainty: this is a man, lest we forgot, who once played the jazz tent at Glastonbury “by mistake”), but will the legendarily erratic ex-Lemonhead be sufficiently focused to muster an organised performance?

For alt-rock’s hapless poster-boy appears to have turned wanton plot-loss into something of an art-form in recent years, with his cartoon, pie-eyed hippy image, seemingly masking an insurmountable predilection for self-destruction. Thus, when he does, in fact, make it to the stage tonight, a palpable sense of relief and – for some at least – disappointment permeates the room. Clearly, those here to witness another instalment of Dando’s interminable death-wish soap opera, are to be denied such ghoulish thrills.

Instead, reassuringly long-locked and handsome, he appears more composed than one would expect from a man on nodding terms with mortality.

From the opening, fluent renderings of ‘It’s a Shame About Ray’ and ‘Down About It’, it’s clear that nu-country’s errant uncle isn’t quite ready to be inaugurated into rock’s densely-populated breakdown brigade. Not that he’s particularly outstanding tonight.

Always a frustratingly inconsistent talent, much of his output veers towards the formulaic, with much of tonight’s new material plodding doggedly through well-worn pastures. Although he remains an intermittently inspired songsmith, and despite his legendary dalliances with self-destruction, Dando’s dizzy worldview ultimately proves too soft-centred to ride up front with the country rock greats.

He was with us, sure, but he took us nowhere slowly.

Paul Whitelaw