When a band as timeless and influential as Dinosaur Jr. puts on a show, you would have high expectations. I went to their headlining show at 02 Ritz Manchester worrying they would not deliver, but thankfully, this was far from the case. They certainly lived up to their reputation as one of the most innovative – and loudest – alternative rock bands around.
I arrived early but the venue was already crowded. As was expected, the floor brimmed to the seams with grey-haired dad rockers and teenaged music-hipsters. Interestingly, I noticed the rather wholesome scene of parents and their children wearing the cartoonish merch and discussing the band’s history, putting a smile on my face.
Opener Garcia Peoples took the stage and instantly set the mood for what was to come. This American psych-rock act played a handful of lively tunes that employed the wah-wah pedal effect to a tee, creating interweaving guitar solos that reverberated through the ground. Had I not known any better, I would have thought they were playing songs from any of the multitude of new King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard albums – and I mean that in the best of ways. However, I felt that the songs sounded too alike: the only real distinguishing feature were the breaks they took to tune their instruments.
With everyone already buzzed from this performance, security began distributing earplugs. This warning of how noisy the show would be only hyped the audience more. I had heard tales about how loud Dinosaur Jr. perform, but I was not prepared for what was to come. The band opened with ‘The Lung’, a fan-favourite from 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me. Its deafening guitar tone could be felt even through our earbuds, leaving the crowd shook.
Dinosaur Jr. are a band of few words, hardly interacting with the audience and not engaging in any stage banter. Rather, they let the distorted wall of sound envelop the crowd, which was more than enough for us. The highlight was definitely ‘Little Fury Things’. Singer J Mascis’ warm vocals drowned by sludgy guitar created a grainy atmosphere that instantly got the crowd moving.
I thought that the band’s age would be a detriment to their performance, but I was surprised to hear that they sounded like the studio versions – eerily so. Murph’s powerful, steady drum work paired with Lou Barlow’s heavy, punchy bass formed a high-intensity framework which Mascis used to improvise fuzzy guitar solos, each more sonically venturesome than the last.
This vigorous performance lasted over two hours, yet felt so short. The band relentlessly maneuvered between critically acclaimed classics like ‘Freak Scene’ from 1988’s Bug and newer gems like ‘Garden’ from last year’s Sweep It Into Space. All the tracks were met with intense fanfare from the audience, cementing Dinosaur Jr. as the go-to noise rock band. Of course, there was no way the crowd was going to let Dinosaur Jr. leave without playing their classic cover of The Cure’s ‘Just like Heaven’, leading to an encore that was arguably louder than the show itself.
The whole performance was a testament to the legacy of this band, inspiring music nerds of all ages. I left feeling content with what I had just witnessed, despite my ears ringing for the whole bus ride home.
You can listen to Dinosaur Jr. here: