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Dueling Dinos: Dinosaur Jr at the Middle East, Night One

The best compliment I can give the Dinosaur Jr. reunion is that I no longer find its greatness unusual. After almost five years, it's no longer a surprise that they still sound this good, the way it was when I first saw them back in 2006. Rather than being a great post-reunion band, they're just a great band, no qualifier necessary.

At the Middle East last night, they didn't behave much like a reunited band. Their catalog is now so robust that they don't need to play nothing but their 80s material like they did back in the early days of the reunion. Instead, they drew mostly from their recent album, Farm, which is scorching and massive and generally awesome. "Over It," "I Don't Want To Go There," and "I Want You To Know" are all perfect for a place like the Middle East, a place where J Mascis's guitar has as much impact no matter where you're standing. They also played several of the songs singer-guitarist J Mascis wrote in the 1990s after Lou Barlow left the band. This practice itself was not unique to the reunion - if this whole experiment has taught us anything it's that there's less difference between what Mascis was doing with Barlow and what he did without Barlow than we thought. But whereas before they stuck to the three most popular tracks from that era ("Out There," "The Wagon," and "Feel the Pain," the latter two of which still made an appearance), on Friday they ventured into deep album-cut territory with "Thumb" (from Green Mind) and "Get Me" (from Where You Been) - the former slayed, even without mellotron, but the latter was just okay. Of course, the best songs were still the SST stuff, even if they only did two - "In a Jar" and "Freakscene" - before the encore.

Mascis still looks like an aging member of a Norwegian death metal band. His voice, usually a stoner drawl on record, sounds a lot more intense live (though still uniquely his). His amp setup on stage surrounds him; if you stood on the left wing of the Middle East you couldn't see him at all if you were too close to the front. Lou Barlow (whose latest project, the Missingmen, opened the show and left no impression) looks almost exactly the same as he did ten years ago when Sebadoh released their last album. He still attacks his bass like he's trying to punish it. They encored with their cover of "Just Like Heaven," allowing its sudden ending to close out the night. The only thing I could complain about was the extremely tall gentleman doing an Elaine Benes-esque dance about a yard in front of me for most of the evening. So it was another great Dinosaur Jr. show. Ho hum.

READ: Dueling Dinos, Night Two.
PHOTOS: Dinosaur Jr., live at the Middle East.

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