“Our tendons have atrophied. We’re not as young and agile as we used to be, this next one’s a slow one…”
That this quote was almost believable is a testament to the longevity of DINOSAUR JR, and their influential take on alt-rock. That it was followed by a brutal version of “Training Ground” – a punk-flecked song from DJr lead singer J Mascis and Lou Barlow’s previous band Deep Wound – showed how this is a band that can still show upstarts today how it’s done live.
The American three-piece found themselves playing to a capacity crowd crammed into the HMV Ritz in Manchester. The crowd, as you may expect for a band that formed way back in 1984, hosted a wide variety of ages and backgrounds. This diversity both aided and hindered the experience, with a fractured atmosphere meaning that the gig took a while to possess a uniform sense of the crowd’s unfettered enthusiasm.
Strolling serenely on-stage, looking for all the world as though they were unaware of the baying 1,500 awaiting them, the band slowly took up arms and launched full force into the gig.
Dinosaur Jr were sonically absolutely incredible. To say that barely a note was missed may not sound too impressive, but considering the sheer amount of notes this band play, and the loping, technical riffs inbuilt in to the tracks, it is high praise indeed. Mascis’ guitar playing was astounding throughout, and the bass-wrangling of Lou Barlow was similarly impressive. Complemented by a stellar sound set-up, the solos teased off the guitar sounded as exceptional as they do on the albums, with Mascis’ fretwork fast becoming hypnotic, and almost cathartic to those paying particular attention.
It was a frenetic 90 minutes of music that didn’t once let up. And therein lay the only problem with the evening’s proceedings: There was simply no variation in the intensity or style of the music being showcased. Although this is a simple criticism that existing fans will have either disregarded or accepted long ago, the breakneck pace had a marked effect on the gig over the course of an hour and a half. With no breathing space between the intensity, there were natural lulls that found the crowd all ‘jumped out’ and found the room a slightly flat space. Granted, a lot of people would revel in the pace brought by the impressive energy levels and endurance displayed by the band. However, a little resting time goes a long way in rock gigs, and there was a feeling that maybe if the band had played that slow one, it would have rejuvenated a flagging audience.
That said, the aforementioned technical wizardry mixed with a treat of a set list that spanned a large expanse of their career, not to mention a cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” thrown in to boot, certainly offered a lot of meat for fans to chew on, even if it may have left a few a little stuffed.