We caught the tail end of New York Rivals, but from what we heard, it didn’t sadden us much. We’ve heard indie rock before. It was openers The Shining Twins that actually stole our hearts. With a standing drummer whose mounted kick drum towered a good several inches over her petite frame, they already looked twee as fuck. High-tempo shrieks full of angsty, quirky rants about slutty girls and stupid boys won us over instantly.
But the star of this spectacle was obviously Evan Dando, who’d been seen pacing anxiously aroumd the venue all evening. While we were all anticipating a dose of those silky pipes, he’d apparently blown them out on tour already. So, as a warm up, he started with a solo set, jogging through a string of hits and covers such as “The Outdoor Type,” Noise Addict’s “I Wish I was Him” and even Big Star’s “I’m in Love With a Girl.” One tune typically led directly into the other with little or no pause, except in the instances when his amp needed tweaking. There’d be much more of this to come.
Dando spoke to the crowd in short, rapid, unintelligible bursts, but we gathered this time that he was bringing out the band to get this show on the road. After all, we did come to hear It’s a Shame About Ray in its entirety — and we would ... eventually. “Rockin’ Stroll” and “Confetti” kicked off just as the album does, and sounded pretty damn good, though Dando couldn’t quite hit the high notes and the solos were more than a little half-assed. Fuck it. He’s a badass. He’s our childhood hero. You are forgiven, oh elder statesman of alterna-rock. Trudge on, brother. Hell, we’ve got a killer buzz ourselves.
But, trudge he not. He excused the band again, mumbling something about song keys and he couldn’t do this or that with the band playing with him. Our guess is the band’s amplitude was too much for his pipes to compete with. He went back to solo guitar and after several attempts in several keys, played “It’s a Shame About Ray” and a few others on and off the record with no particular gumption or enthusiasm, killing what few moments of momentum he’d collected by playing the inept perfectionist and spending an inordinate amount of stage time creating and solving technical difficulties with his guitar, getting the tone just right for each and every song, but making neither heads nor tales of his equipment without the aid of his guitar tech.
Dando brought the band out a second time. After pretty much nailing Ray staples like “Kitchen” and “Bit Part,” he detoured through Come on Feel's “Style” and a cover of G.G. Allin’s “Layin’ up With Linda,” leading us to believe this rocky start was headed for a smooth finish.
It wasn’t. Yet again, Dando dismissed the band, who, unbeknownst to us and eventually to our dismay, would not return. After more amp twiddling, Dando started more than a few songs in one or more wrong keys before giving up and starting a new one. He played “Big Gay Heart” by request and then a cover of The Misfits’ “Skulls” — a song you know is being played for squares when a sing-along fails to ensue. And just when we were thinking a little momentum was in the works, he brings out the special guest.
Dando returned to his guitar a little longer. He called out to the crowd — which was thinning more with each song — for any tracks from Ray he might have missed, and fumbled through the rest of them while we imagined how much better they’d sound with bass and drums. Finally, he unhooked his guitar, mumbled “Thank you all! Sorry!” and exited the stage, leaving an obvious mix of emotions in the crowd. At one point earlier in the set, some woman from the back screamed out “Bogus!” Dando’s reply summed up the evening pretty well, “This is the opposite, baby. It ain’t pretty, but it’s definitely real.”