Dinosaur Jr - Electric Ballroom
Live Review

Dinosaur Jr – Electric Ballroom, London

For such a confident and experienced band, Dinosaur jr give the early impression that they have left something on at home; the iron, the bath, the oven, definitely something. Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle before every song – after messing around with their instruments after the eighth song in a row, it starts to look more like an obsession than a necessity.

But what does it matter? They were great. Starring in the Electric Ballroom in Camden on Monday night, they commanded almost every genre worth a visit, and then kicked off the encore with their own, incongruous cover of the Cure’s In Between days.

Statements attributed to lead singer J Mascis that ‘Bug’ was his least favourite almost seems like a dose of reverse psychology, with the ample and enthusiastic crowd climaxing at the first few bars of ‘Freak Scene’, the poster song from the third album. The song from the album he likes the least got the most, what can you do?

The excitement created by the speeding up and the slowing down throughout crowd favourite ‘I Feel The Pain’ took the night to a new level. The communal bonding is suddenly more pronounced and there is just a little bit less elbow space in the room and almost everyone is dancing, or at least nodding with firm intent. The obligatory crowd surfer makes his appearance, although the effort is token and there is no floating body follow-up. Looking for the compulsory bouncer on the stage resulted in a glimpse of a smiling roadie with long hair and a cap who was clearly not going to be the one to halt a stage invasion.

One element of the scene had been set for the (generally) grown-up audience a little earlier by bassist Lou Barlow’s rather forlorn confession that he had not been to college, something that he “deeply regrets”. This followed another quick comment that “every rose has a thorn”, which was maybe making some reference to a previous duet with Johnny Marr on ‘The boy with the thorn in his side’, or more likely a humorous aside referencing the bloated hair metal power ballad of that name by the Poison, since they then played a really fast punk song from their old band Deep Wound.

More songs from the ‘I Bet On sky’ album, on which the artwork for the stage backdrop was based, carried on the heavy, heavy sound that dominated throughout, providing any excuse for an extended heavy drum and guitar threesome. Barlow assures us that the backdrop was carried over by immaculate drummer Murph on a ship, and all seemed well in their world.
There was also room in the thunderous wall of sound for ‘Forget The Swan’, the opening song on the original band’s first, eponymous album.

The frequently pile-driving jam that was the undoubted feature of the night was often lit up by some sweet rhythms and some jolly lyrics, particularly after the band took time to say hello and utter a few song titles. The influences were legion, ranging anywhere from the more cosy and familiar Magic Numbers to the Psychedelic Furs, always subject to the insertion of a very heavy sound that liked to make its way into grunge from time to time. Did we hear The Banana Splits? We were recovering after a big weekend, so maybe not.

Dinosaur came on after The Cheatahs, their most regular support for this tour. The Cheatahs were signed up by Wichita Recordings last year and had no problem filling the room with sound. There was a bit of Sonic Youth and some Husker Du in there as well as some strong signs of Ash. While the sound was not so new and original, the performance was fine and they pulled in a big crowd. Importantly, they look like rock stars, from the drummers insistence that his kit should sit below his knees, to the Ramones lookey-likey on bass guitar bassist and producer Dean Reid to the big man of action Canadian frontman Nathan Hewitt. Once settled in, Hewitt announced ‘The Swan’ to a ripple of appreciation. The song was released in October last year on the Sans EP, and don’t forget, it’s Cheatahs with an ‘a’.

Venue: Electric Ballroom, London
Support Band: The Cheatahs

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