Drug Buddies. Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield, Royal Festival Hall.

Drug Buddies. Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield, Royal Festival Hall.

If Sean Penn’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High character Jeff Spicoli and Trip Fontaine of The Virgin Suicides decided to have a lovechild, and said lovechild decided that when he grew up, he wanted to be a rock star, then said lovechild would surely have been Evan Dando. The perma-stoned, long-haired slacker singing songs about babies in prams, yet still managing to sleep with supermodels whilst playing Letterman. He’s that kind of rock star.

“We’re kind of winging it”, muses Juliana Hatfield after bumbling onstage with Dando, the man clad in slip-on vans and a baggy red hoody. The two are reunited as the perennial are they/ aren’t they alt. partners in crime and Hatfield comes across slightly Wednesday Addams tonight – attired all in black and side plait – though it’s in this setting that we’re treated to an impromptu, and seemingly largely unplanned intimate hour an a half down a shady ’90s lane of hits.

Things start off with the duo together as one: Confetti is tossed aside, a little like the proverbial, and we get a few Hatfield-penned numbers. However it’s in this pared back environment, when Dando starts singing with only his weatherbeaten Gibson and his generous, golden voice for company, that his own songs and voice really shine. He’s the undoubted star of the show and it’s the solo numbers – a sublime trudge through Being Around, Into My Arms, Different Drum and the night’s highlight, Big Gay Heart which comes accompanied by a saw player (a sawist?!) – that really showcase what a marvellous singer and songwriter he is, even after all these years.

Guitars shorn of any distortion, he almost acquires a 21st century Townes Van Zandt quality, and his husky voice is given the room it so deserves to resonate around the Royal Festival Hall, bringing a much needed warmth to this chilly December evening. Hatfield has her moments with My Sister, whilst seeing them both perform My Drug Buddy, the timeless paean to youthful suburban ennui, in unison is great but the show sags when she’s left to carry the can on her own.

Thankfully therefore, Dando closes the evening out on his own once again, and the faithful amassed here whoop and cheer in appreciation. Duly, he appears genuinely pleased. Considering the last time I’d seen him was at the ill-fated White Air nonevent down in Brighton, he’s on positively ebullient form as he effusively thanks the crowd and quips of how “it’s really no different from soundcheck.” Thus he leaves understated as he arrived. It’s about time, and there is no encore to be seen. And with that, he’s gone. Live Forever, Dando.

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