Electric Ballroom, London, February 4
With his long grey hair parted down the middle like a biblical sea and his world-weary demeanour, J Mascis is basically the grunge Gandalf. Swap the staff for a Fender Jazzmaster, amend the hobbit-herder’s trademark shout a little (“You shall not pass… up the opportunity for another four-minute guitar solo!”) and you’re pretty much there. And though he may not have embarked on any epic journeys to the heart of Mordor in his three decades as frontman of influential trio Dinosaur Jr – he’s way too laconic for that – he wears the wizened expression of a man who’s been round the block a few times. An icon of the alternative uprising that sprang onto MTV in the early ’90s and a favourite of Kurt Cobain, Mascis is one of the most influential and revered rock musicians of his era. Which is precisely why when he and his bandmates emerge for this evening’s NME Awards Show, a roar erupts from the crowd that’s so loud you can bet it echoed all the way down to Middle Earth.
Watching Dinosaur Jr is like being lost in time. Mascis still cuts the same look he did in 1989, statuesque onstage in his slacker tee and baggy jeans. Bassist Lou Barlow still quakes violently around the stage like the creature from Cloverfield. And the songs are as riotous as ever. ‘Rude’ and ‘Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know’, both from last year’s ‘I Bet On Sky’ album, screech with the same energy as vintage tracks ‘Freak Scene’ and ‘Out There’.
With the Pixies quiet and Sonic Youth dead and buried, Dinosaur Jr are just about the last men standing from ’90s-era grunge, but tonight the trio prove there’s plenty of life left in their caterwauling rock. All hail Mascis, lord of the ringing ears.