Lemonheads, Shepherds Bush Empire, London

Still not quite sharp enough, the charming Dando returns
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The Independent Culture

It's a shame about Ray was their single classic, forgotten now by anyone who wasn't around in the year, 1992, when it seduced the Indie nation. But playing it in its entirety, as the briefly reformed band do tonight, is a reminder of an innocence, in Dando and us, that was soon exhausted.

The singers puppyish eagerness to please and appetite for pleasure almost did him in immediately afterwards, as drugs fatally derailed his career. Seeing Dando and his band back again is a replay of broken hopes, and buried pop genius.

The indistinct charm of their album is soon summed up on "Confetti". "I Kinda Shoulda Sorta Woulda Loved Ya If I Could," Dando offers, still looking good enough for most girls to let him off.

The pain that was rushing towards him when he first wrote it is then hinted at on "It's A Shame About Ray", with its lyrical touches of inner isolation, offset by a chorus the heaving crowd greets like a friend they'd thought was gone for good.

"My Drug Buddy", so lovely but freighted with latter-day meaning, cuts still deeper for everyone. Strummed acoustically at a sluggish pace suggesting a pleasant heroin haze, Dando murmurs "I'm too much in myself, I wanna be someone else". Lodged in a song that still sounds addictively appealing, the cry for help, too late now, couldn't be much louder.

The reformed Lemonheads play it all with a thick, fuzzed guitar attack more reminiscent of their pre-Ray days as a punkish Boston band. The fans, many younger than might be expected, roil and thud into each other as if this is a grunge nostalgia night.

"Bit Part", "Kitchen" give two more modest pop master classes. Then, when the strange shaggy dog tale of "Frank Mills", sung by the crowd like a mass lullaby, then finishes It's A Shame About Ray, an album that has never outstayed its welcome.

Despatching the Lemonheads to the wings, Dando then stands alone to whip through some later favourites. "The Outside Type" and the hit "Being Around" easily rev up an audience so delighted to see him back, his 21st century near-invisibility seems almost inexplicable. Then the Lemonheads are back with him, the signal for Dando finally to acknowledge the long-stored affection around him.

"Thanks for having us back," he says with feeling. "I love you all." He leaves for good soon afterwards, a touching reminder of gone good times.

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