Dinosaur Jr. returned to The Gov on the 10th of March to submit Adelaideans to an aural onslaught of the sort not many other groups can pull off. Kicking off the night, support act (local boys) Ride Into The Sun did a serviceable job of warming the crowd up, but their laid-back psychedelic sound was not really the type of prep the grunge-fans present were looking for. Lacking energy and any connection with the crowd (beyond the few dedicated regular followers), they needed a stronger presence to play a strong support role to such strong international headliners.
At the start of their set, the reformed Dinosaur Jr. strode onstage (at the same time) and this was about the most coherent the group looked all night. Not that they’re at the level of dysfunction that led to their 1989 split, but it’s clearly an uneasy détente for bassist Lou Barlow and the man who fired him originally (lead singer and guitarist, J. Mascis.) Despite the tension, the group knows how to perform together and are a very tight unit, each member holding his own amongst the others’ powerful efforts.
Their set saw tracks from new album, ‘I Bet On Sky’, sit easily alongside classics from all the way back to 1985’s debut album ‘Dinosaur’. ‘Almost Fare’ and ‘Watch The Corners’ showcased the increasingly melodic quality of the groups’ songs and were contrasted alongside the fuzzed-out sound of oldies, ‘Sludgefeast’ and ‘Gargoyle’. Throwing in covers of The Cure (‘Just Like Heaven’) and Deep Wound (‘Training Ground’), Dinosaur Jr. crafted a diverse soundtrack to an excellent night. Mascis powered through track after track with aplomb and almost no participation with the audience and with definitely nothing that could be confused with a smile. That largely left Barlow to act as the group’s mouthpiece, thanking the audience for coming and even taking the vocal reigns at one point. Inbetween the two, holding the whole group together, was the ever-smiling Murph, pounding the drums and successfully holding his own against Mascis’ overwhelmingly loud guitar. The highest tensions got was when Murph began playing the wrong song due to a setlist error. Starting off telling him he was wrong, Mascis quickly acknowledged the error wasn’t his and the group moved on to burst some more eardrums.
A number of audience members’ concert experience was unfortunately tainted by the obnoxious behaviour of a small group of punters. Being abusive, colliding with other music-lovers and trying to steal audience members’ cameras, the only thing stopping a fight was one of The Gov’s bouncers who stepped in twice and withdrew the offending parties. Hats off to #03 and The Gov themselves for keeping a lid on a potentially volatile situation. J. Mascis also stepped in to address another audience situation, giving a lesson in sound equipment and the prime location to stand in (should the audience member in question, really want to hear his ‘beautiful voice’ as her written note to him claimed). To avoid such problems for attendees at future concerts, let’s reprise his explanation: “I don’t know how else to explain this. You’re standing in front of my amplifiers. My guitar’s sound comes out of the amplifiers. If you want to hear the vocals, I suggest you go and stand near some of the vocal speakers.”
Mascis and co. ripped through a huge setlist (literally huge in the case of J. Mascis who had his copy of the setlist enlarged to four A3 sheets.) Songs enjoyed by the crowd covered the whole gamete of recordings by Dinosaur Jr. Well… almost. Dinosaur Jr’s set included not one track from either 1997’s ‘Hand It Over’, or their last album, 2009’s ‘Farm’. Disappointing as these omissions were, it couldn’t halt what was an exceptional set from one of music’s most tight and uncompromising groups.