Dinosaur Jr

If playing insanely loud rock music for close to three decades doesn’t give you a good enough insight into the state of J Mascis hearing, then the three towering Marshall stacks crammed onto the Electric Ballroom stage definitely will, and judging from his comically sized set list he’s as blind as he is deaf. Dinosaur Jr.’s vision blurring volume must have an effect on him, but his forever laid back demeanour makes him seem immune as he shreds through and forms a third of their deafening sensory assault from behind his glazed eyes.

The Amherst trio arrived in support of last year’s excellent I Bet on Sky, the third album in their improbably great reunion streak, and this Electric Ballroom show is the last of a rare UK tour. A tour that has allowed many people to see if the band lives up to the legend of their supposedly frightening volume for the first time. You don’t even need to hear one note played through Mascis and bassist Lou Barlow’s imposing setups to figure that question out, but it’s their drummer Murph that might be the loudest. He slams his drum kit and provides a pounding assault from under the fuzzy stringed madness. You can feel a real fury in the air when they launch into their set with “The Lung”, from their 1987 classic You’re Living All Over Me. After which Barlow kicked his monitor up, aimed it towards the audience, and blared his gnashing bass line from Bug’s “Budge” right into the faces of the front row.

The three I Bet on Sky songs they played showed their worth by fitting perfectly alongside their more classic material. The scratchy guitar lead of album opener “Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know” was topped with a solo that was far more vicious than the album version, but the triumphant blazing outro of “Watch the Corners” was left mostly intact by Mascis. Barlow took the lead with an enthusiastic croon on “Rude” and a harsh shriek on their version of “Training Ground”, a song from one of Mascis and Barlow’s first band Deep Wound, who date back to a time when Mascis had yet to trade his drum kit in for a guitar. “This is a song about me starting college, which I regret” says Barlow before they tear into its blistering hardcore punk flesh, “school sucks” he adds after a thrilling grinding blur of a song. The fierce shouts of “Little Fury Things” and the guitar refrain of “Crumble” devolve into some of Mascis’ best vocal melodies, which greatly contrasts the savage aggression of the Deep Wound song.

Mascis’ squealing guitar and Murph’s punchy fills mark a particularly colossal sounding “Start Choppin’”, and “Freak Scene” doesn’t receive as big a reaction as you’d expect, but everyone still comes together for its two excellently messy solos and the big sing along line of “cause when I need a friend it’s still you”. A racing version of “Feel the Pain” is the runaway crowd favourite, with its frantic speed up slow down structure and multiple breakdowns sending waves through the shoving crowd.

A super extended version of “Gargoyle” ends the main set, building and building as Barlow sings and swipes furiously at the neck of his Rickenbacker. “What songs do you want to hear that we’re not going to play?” taunts Barlow playfully as they return for their encores, “How about a song by The Cure?”. A question that makes you realise that it’s always been bizarre that a band with such a mammoth sound chose to stomp through the gentle Cure classic “Just Like Heaven”, but their reinvention of it sounds predictably incredible tonight as Robert Smith’s sweet melodies are trampled and left to bleed out underneath Dinosaur Jr. crushing momentum. They close with a demonic “Sludgefeast”, and Murph, J and Lou blast through its multiple riffs and tempos, and ignite with a perfect skull rattling heavy metal outro. They leave to the sound of Barlow’s whooping bass distortion, having proven again that their second life isn’t a fluke.