The alt-rock old hands bring their ear-shredding live show to the Ritz
1st Februrary 2013
Dinosaur Jr. occupy a peculiar place in rock history. They certainly never achieved the kind of commercial success as Nirvana or Pearl Jam did, but their early records served as influences to both. They aren’t held up to be the musical pioneers and embodiments of cool that their peers, Sonic Youth, are, but their gain-heavy, feedback-drenched guitar sound was as instrumental in dictating the musical trends of the 90s alternative scene as anyone else’s.
It’s difficult to pin down specifically why they aren’t held in quite the same esteem, critically or commercially, as some of their contemporaries – maybe their well-documented eight-year hiatus cost them some momentum, or the heavy influence of classic rock on their material that’s kept them in relative obscurity, but a solid cult following is evidenced by a sold-out Ritz.
Dinosaur Jr.’s association with Manchester goes back a long way – the video for arguably their biggest hit, ‘Freak Scene’, was filmed in West Didsbury in 1988 – and tonight’s crowd isn’t limited to any one age demographic. Accordingly, the band line up a set that covers their entire career, opening with ‘Thumb’ from 1991’s Green Mind. They sound remarkably tight for a band who’ve been off the road for a while, with the slew of cuts from last year’s I Bet on Sky particularly sharp.
J. Mascis, a man who looks every inch the elder statesman of the alternative scene with his greyed beard and long white hair, punctuates the group’s signature sludge with incendiary guitar solos, but the real musical triumph for Dinosaur Jr. is that they’re capable of making songs that, despite often sounding like they might collapse under the weight of their own reverb, are still replete with sparkling melodies. So formidable is the Dinosaur Jr. canon at near thirty years in the business that grumbles over the setlist are inevitable, and whilst disappointingly light on tracks led by bassist Lou Barlow, its diversity is to be admired, with a cover of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’ given a rare live outing. Dinosaur Jr. are masters of their own unique live style – often imitated but, on this evidence, highly unlikely to be bettered.