WORDS AND IMAGES PAUL EVANS
“I feel the pain of everyone, then I feel nothing”
Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney and The Lemonheads are three of the best alternative bands for me and after tonight’s gig I will have had the pleasure of seeing them all in the last few weeks. All at the iconic Ritz in Manchester too. It’s also raining again. There are three certainties in life. Death, taxes and a rainy Manchester.
For nearly 40 years, Dinosaur Jr. have had a reputation as one of the most inventive, significant and loudest alternative bands. They’ve been name checked as influences by bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins, The Pixies and My Bloody Valentine and without Dinosaur Jr would there have been the Seattle Sound that took over the musical world in the early 1990’s? Possibly not.
I’ve seen Dinosaur Jr. numerous times over the years, the first when I was caught in a frenzied “Freakscene” crowd meltdown with some old friends at Manchester University in the late 1980’s. Something I hopefully won’t be repeating tonight. The band also hold the record for the loudest band I’ve seen live, so I’m prepared tonight. Looking at the Marshall stacks piled high on the stage I ‘m beginning to wish I’d brought a second pair of ear plugs though. As security hand out earplugs to the crowd three or four rows away from the barrier I’m thinking bringing three sets would have been a better idea. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
It’s a packed sell-out again at the Ritz and it’s a wide-ranging compact crowd. There’s plenty of fans who could have been at the University gig with me, but there’s also lots of twenty somethings and teenagers here too. I spot Leo from fledgling noise gaze band Myria and even an 8-year-old boy with his dad right at the barrier centre stage. Dinosaur Jr’s unrivalled creativity still inspiring generation after generation.
It’s the “classic” line-up in the dark blue lights tonight, J Mascis (guitar), Lou Barlow (bass) and Murph (drums) and set opener is “The Lung” from 1987’s ‘You’re Living All Over Me’, followed by the laid-back Jr chill of “I Ain’t” and the gentler, stunning “Garden” from latest album ‘Sweep it into space’. Bassist Lou and guitarist J swapping instruments for the latter. As the frenzied crowd-pleaser “Little Fury Things” gets the rapturous crowd moving I take out an ear plug and it’s actually not that loud.
“Out There” from 1993’s ‘Where ya been?’ sneers, fusing its blissful melody with explosive guitar and “I Expect It Always” and the Black Sabbath sounding “I Met the Stones” showcase that both J’s voice and his solos are as hypnotising as ever. J swaps instruments after almost every song for his controlled bursts of spiralling fuzz, Lou doesn’t stand still for a second his mop of curly hair bouncing over his face for almost the entire set, while Murph casually drives the sound at the back of the stage. It’s an outstanding start, the older tracks perfectly merging with the scattered tracks from ‘Sweep it into space’. They’ve still got it as they say.
Songs from the bands long career provide the majority of the set. “The Wagon” from 1991’s Green Mind and “Start Choppin’” from 1993’s ‘Where You Been’ snarl with pop and knotted guitar. ’Start Choppin‘’ incites the crowd to surge forward while “Feel the Pain,” from 1994’s ‘Without a Sound’ is melodic, rasping perfection. The instrumental work by the trio phenomenal. I just close my eyes, listen and mouth the words “I feel the pain of everyone, then I feel nothing”.
Dinosaur Jr. are not a chatty band. J, Murph and Lou are men of few words, the quality of the music speaking for them. “Manchester, we’ve missed you!” is the only thing I remember hearing. Maybe it’s because parts of the video of ‘Freak Scene’ were filmed in Manchester that encourages the comment. The song itself tonight is three and a half minutes of the loudest, most uncompromising, beautiful, composed music you’re ever likely to hear. It’s simply breath-taking with the crowd singing, “Just don’t let me fuck up will you, ’cause when I need a friend it’s still you”, hands in the air.
The crowning glory of the night however is a cover version which has become the bands own,
“Just like Heaven”. The exposed melody of the song at its melancholic beat-up best tonight. Soft, lost and lonely. Sweet, yet sounding like an approaching storm. Noisy and scratchy, attractive and peaceful, smashed and exposed. It doesn’t get better than this and when the stage is empty I think that next time I’ll bring my daughter as she has to hear this and I’ll also bring three sets of earplugs just in case.
1/ The Lung
2/ I Ain’t
4/ Little Fury Things
5/ Out There
7/ I Expect It Always
8/ I Met the Stones
9/ The Wagon
10/ Been There All the Time
11/ Start Choppin
12/ Feel the Pain
13/ Mountain Man
14/ Freak Scene
14/ Forget the Swan
15/ Does It Float
16/ Just Like Heaven
FOLLOW DINOSAUR JR