It’s been nearly 30 years since Dinosaur Jr. unleashed their scuzzy, distorted alt-rock through a suffocating haze of weed and if tonight’s evidence is anything to go by, they’ve got no intention of growing old gracefully.
Before the Massachusetts trio delivered their feedback-drenched masterclass, however, we had to endure support act Little Barrie’s set of insipid bluesy rock which did little to set the pulse racing. Their bland retro stylings left an unsavoury taste in the mouth and their cause certainly wasn’t aided by a drummer who gave off the smug air of a man who thought he was the reincarnation of John Bonham. He wasn’t.
Unfortunately Dinosaur Jr. didn’t exactly begin their set in the pulsating fashion required to wake the crowd from their Little Barrie induced hangover. Opening song ‘See It on Your Side’ from last year’s triumphant ‘I Bet on Sky’ was plagued by sound difficulties before bassist Lou Barlow spent the best part of five minutes fiddling with his meaty amps, leaving J Mascis and Murph to fumble their way through an impromptu interlude.
The early impression that this was nothing more than a practice session that we’d intruded upon was soon put firmly to bed though as the band hit its stride in style to deliver a career-spanning set of melodic fuzz rock propelled by J’s woozy vocals and signature guitar solos, which peppered almost every song. In a musical landscape that is forever changing, there’s something strangely comforting to be found in J’s ongoing insistence in shunning the crowd and barely averting his gaze from a pedal board that’s so big it requires its own postcode. His languid sloth-like stage presence is in stark contrast to the stunning work he undertakes on his fretboard, with his seemingly turbo charged fingers making grown men go weak at the knees.
While the majority of the crowd could be reasonably filed under “of a certain age” there’s still a sizeable element who are like moths to the stage-diving flame when stone-cold classics like ‘Start Choppin’ and ‘Freak Scene’ are unleashed. For a brief moment you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been transported to a Pearl Jam gig in 1993.
While the carefree thrill of stage diving might be beyond most in attendance, they are given a treat in the shape of a cover from J and Murph’s teenage hardcore band, Deep Wound, which offers a tantalising glimpse of what Dinosaur Jr. might have ended up sounding like if they hadn’t discovered ‘the green stuff’. They finish on a double whammy of their legendary cover of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’ and ‘Sludgefeast’, before sloping off to light up a fat one and congratulate themselves for being one of the finest rock bands in the world.