I wouldn't say Dinosaur Jr was a huge part of my life growing up. Over the last few years, however, they've slowly become one of my favorite bands. Even their new albums are pretty rad (though not quite in the same way as their first three), and there aren't too many bands that you can say that about this far into their careers. I guess what I'm trying to get at is that I've never seen them live, and I was pretty excited to do so.
My friends and I arrived too late to catch Lou Barlow's opening act. Apparently it was just him with an acoustic guitar. It could've been him with a group of throat singers or aliens, or Dillinger Four for all I know; I didn't see it. Sorry.
As a result, my first band of the evening was the Pink Mountaintops, a local band who share the same label as Dinosaur Jr and who recently released a new album on said label. Now for the non-Vancouverites reading this, TPM shares members with another local band called Black Mountain, and both bands have a considerable following here. That being said, they have a considerable amount of "scene cred" (or what have you), and if you think I'm going to say anything bad about them you are out of your fucking mind.
That was a joke. folks...
That being said, TPM played an enjoyable set of chilled-out folk-rock. I'd never heard them before so it's tough to comment on how well they execute their material live, as compared to their recordings, but the instrumentation was solid, and their vocal harmonies were all dead on. I could see myself listening to their albums on the drive home after a great night out (such as THIS one perchance?), or when I need something a bit more laid back to listen to (I'll admit, that's not too often).
After your standard setup / soundcheck time (plus I imagine it took some time to wake up J Mascis) the men, the legends, Dinosaur Jr took the stage. I'd heard stories about how ear-bleedingly loud this band could be live, so I was bracing myself for the sonic assault to come. It did...eventually...but the band seemed like they were easing us into it with the relatively relaxed opener "Thumb" from their 1991 release, Green Mind.
From there, they picked up the tempo somewhat with tracks off their last two releases, before delving deeper into their back catalogue, playing a mix of songs from throughout their (or should I say J's) career.
The show itself was pretty flawless. J's leads soared and seared the eardrums, Lou's bass chords thundered out through the venue and Murph held everything together on the drums, while displaying some flashy fills when necessary. The whole thing was a pretty intense assault on the senses, with the loud, heavily distorted music combining with the flashing and shifting lights. I think I can safely say I'm not catatonic.
Some might decry the lack of crowd interaction, or the band's lack of stage presence, and they'd be somewhat accurate. There wasn't a whole lot of banter between songs (at one point, Lou cautioned the people at the front of the stage to move away from the amps), but I consider Dinosaur to be a band that lets their music do most of the talking, so that worked fine for me.
As for stage presence, true the band didn't move around a lot. Lou did stalk around his part of the stage with his head down, but I wasn't expecting them to be hopping around the stage like a bunch of 20-year-old hardcore kids (or Iron Maiden). Besides, between singing along to the lyrics, being amazed by J's fretboard prowess and trying not to have a seizure from the light/sound combination, I don't know if anyone would have noticed if they did.
After playing for about an hour or so, covering favorites such as "Little Fury Things," "Freak Scene" and "The Wagon," as well as some excellent newer songs like the powerful "Pieces" and the laid back but anthemic "Plans," the band left the stage, waiting to be summoned back for the inevitable encore. Once they returned they didn't waste time, immediately kicking into "In a Jar" off their landmark album You're Living All Over Me before closing things off with their excellent cover of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven."
I left the show amazed at what I'd seen (also a little hungry, but that's a different story), and almost totally satisfied with the set list. Of course, there were a lot of other songs I would've liked to have seen them play, but I can understand if they didn't want to play a three-hour set. I won't say it was the best show I've ever seen, but it came pretty damn close. I'll definitely catch them next time they're in town, and if a band can do that for me then I suppose they've done their job.
Set list (approximately):
- Been There All the Time
- Imagination Blind
- Feel the Pain
- Freak Scene
- The Wagon
- Little Fury Things
- Get Me
- Over It
- Out There (could be wrong about this, at any rate it ended with an epic guitar solo)
- In a Jar
- Just Like Heaven (the Cure)