Albert Hall, Manchester
Saturday 19 November
Back after a four-year absence with one of their strongest records, the legendary Amherst trio deafen and delight a sold-out Manchester crowd with a career-spanning set. Sam Lambeth bought the earplugs.
Anyone who has been to a Dinosaur Jr. gig before will know two things – the next few days will only be bearable through the medium of pidgin sign language and, lastly, J Mascis and co don’t let anything frivulous like talking get in the way of a good set. Both are evident at this gig, but there is an attempt to try and curveball the coyness – a stage invader, flushed with fandom, attempts to eradicate the barrier between fan/band before being led away. Of course, Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph are relatively nonplussed by this action, and simply stop, think and restart the aching opus ‘Watch the Corners’. It was worth a try.
However, it is perversely fitting that the Amherst band don’t indulge in much stage interaction; ever since Mascis’ tumultous fretwork gave them an everlasting currency back in their SST days, he has had the enviable ability of articulating his emotions through aching, squealing solos rather than the words that come out of his mouth. What’s more, their status has arguably never been higher – their latest record, Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not, was perhaps the most strongest of their reformation records (an enviable feat considering all four have been formidable), and this Manchester date is easily sold out.
Since Beyond kickstarted their Indian summer back in 2007, Dinosaur Jr. have blended their trademark trailblazing volume with a more sweet, sincere side, and the tracks aired from Give A Glimpse… are perfect evidence of this newfound amalgamation. ‘Knocked Around’ is a lilting hymn, propelled by Mascis’ uncharacteristically strong falsetto and delicate guitar chug, before it, apropos of nothing, explodes into an urgent jolt of jagged solos and Murph’s propulsive drumming. ‘Tiny’ is a wistful, punky thrash that’s both hopeful and humble, ‘I Told Everyone’ splices an R.E.M.-esque jangle into a taut, melancholic chorus and the Barlow-led ‘Love Is…’ is a smoky, ’60s-indebted campfire strum.
Alongside these new cuts are some of their most revered classics. They open with the lopsided arpeggios of ‘The Lung’, which gives Mascis, his long white hair flowing ethereally throughout, a chance to demonstrate his skills with his incredibly populous pedal board, while ‘Little Fury Things’ moulds Barlow’s piercing scream with Mascis’ more soothing lament. It’s always good to hear the band’s ’90s output, which Barlow was, of course, absent for, elevated by the Sebadoh frontman’s bone-shattering bass; the pseudo-funk of ‘Start Choppin’, the blistering classic ‘Feel the Pain’ and the pounding ‘The Wagon’ – aided by a second drummer and electric sitar, no less – all have more fight and verve with Barlow’s bass going toe-to-toe with Mascis’ volume of volume.
Closing with one of their more ferocious moments, the feral ‘Mountain Man’, the trio leave a sweaty and satisfied audience delighted and deaf, probably in equal measure.