It's been 24 years since Dinosaur Jr. released their first album, and with the original line-up now back together for the first time since 1988, their status as alt-rock legends is guaranteed. Still, after watching the group's latest performance at Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom, it's hard not to fear for their physical well-being. The band's amps were cranked to near-deafening volumes throughout the show, meaning that most concertgoers went home with a ringing in their ears that lasted much longer than the 90-minute set.
Singer/guitarist J Mascis was seemingly undeterred by the sound levels, spending the entire performance standing directly in front of his three towering Marshall stacks. He treated nearly every song as vehicle to indulge his inner guitar god, shredding the shit out of his Fender Jaguar during a feedback-laced takes of new Farm tracks like "Plans."
Mascis was slightly more restrained on the band's classic material, keeping his guitar theatrics to a comparative minimum during the one-two punch of "The Wagon" and "Freak Scene," which together earned the biggest cheers of the night. The recent single "Over It" was similarly punchy, its blistering tempo making the studio cut sound downright lazy.
Although bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Murph were less flashy than their guitar-wielding front-man, the rhythm section's airtight accompaniment was no less impressive. They laid down a steady groove during a set-ending cover of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven," which was soaked in fuzz and sounded pretty much like everything else the band played.
Also on the bill were Pink Mountaintops, whose baroque folk and psychedelic rock workouts seemed practically sombre compared to Dinosaur Jr. Still, the band's lush five-piece arrangements were an effective counterpoint to the headliners' squalling feedback, especially during the aching ballads "Vampire" and "Closer to Heaven."