It’s a cold, rainy November evening in Glasgow, and the queue outside of the O2 ABC is sparse. Dinosaur Jr. won’t play for another hour and a half; most keep to the pubs until later. Opposite those keen enough to arrive before the doors open is an even smaller group awaiting entry to see something called ‘Boot Led Zeppelin’. The Dinosaur Jr. crowd are rallied against the wait and the weather. It could be worse.
The doors open and these few trickle into the empty expanse of the main hall, settling into the best spots to sip their pints beneath the enormous disco ball. Within half an hour a small crowd has formed in front of the stage in time for Wild Style Lion, the first and only support band, to take to the stage.
Ordinarily a trio, only two of the Berlin psychedelic electronica/kraut-rock outfit perform, but what they lack in manpower they make up for in sheer blissed-out noise. Through their set the pair manage to thoroughly earn their place supporting such a prestigious act as Dinosaur Jr. Armed only with a guitar, a drum machine and the droning vocals of singer Khan, their set is simultaneously stripped back and deliciously weird. Despite minimal movement between the two, they possess a strong stage presence, and the ever-growing crowd reacts warmly.
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Half eight on the dot and the moment of truth arrives. By this point the hall is packed tight; a healthy mix of the middle-aged and youngsters who haven’t had haircuts since 2011. One colourful gent rocks a genuine pair of red velvet bell-bottoms. To raucous applause and a good deal of whooping, Dinosaur Jr. saunter on stage and take up their instruments. “Woo. Hey.” is all guitarist and vocalist J Mascis has to say before kicking things off.
It’s incredible just how much noise Dinosaur Jr. can make. Thirty-two years into their prestigious career and still able to burst eardrums with the best. After a warm-up of older favourites, the introduction of songs from most recent release ‘Get a Glimpse of What Yer Not’ gets as warm a reception as the classics, giving testament to the band’s staying power. ‘Goin Down’, ‘Tiny’ and the wonderfully sludgy ‘I Walk for Miles’ serve as highlights from the album.
Less than ten minutes in, a bouncy mosh pit forms as they play the opening of ‘Pieces’, and never lets up for the rest of the set, reaching fever pitch during crowd favourites ‘Feel the Pain’ and ‘Start Choppin’.
There is a unique energy projected by the three-piece that becomes almost hypnotic. Born primarily from the contrast between J Mascis’ stoic, laissez-faire approach to such obvious skill on the guitar, and bassist Lou Barlow’s constant, wild thrashing, Dinosaur Jr.’s stage presence holds an audience captive like few others can.
Over the course of an hour they pull out all the stops, performing a setlist that’s bound to please old fans and new. After the inevitable encore moment, there is a palpable excitement as Lou Barlow asks the crowd what song they want to hear. Bellows of “Out There!” and “Tarpit!” claim most the crowd, until with a cheeky grin Barlow disarms the frenzied shouting: “It doesn’t matter,” he says, “We’re playing ‘Just Like Heaven’.
Any other song would feel like a let-down at this point, but as the trio fire into their legendary cover of The Cure, the crowd goes wild once again. Barlow’s roars during the chorus are tremendous, and satisfyingly he still remembers to sing his single backing vocal on the word “hair” in the second verse.
Finishing their set with a powerful performance of ‘Sludgefeast’, Dinosaur Jr. depart the stage a final time, and a crowd full of ringing ears traipse out into the cold. It’s been a memorable night. No one will hear properly for days; nor will they stop grinning. Dinosaur Jr. have done their job, and done it exceptionally well.
‘Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not’ is out now on Jagjaguwar