Saturday, July 21, 2018

With Occasional Prehistoric Fervor, Dinosaur Jr. Unearths Some Cherished Rock in an Evanson Parking Lot -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Dinosaur Jr.
w/ opening act Purling Hiss
Out of SPACE
Temperance Beer Co., Evanston, IL

I would love to say that I've been an avid Dinosaur Jr. fan for 30 years, but that isn't quite the case.

Though the highly acclaimed second and third albums by the Massachusetts trio--You're Living All Over Me and Bug--were released in late 1987 and 1988, respectively, I was oblivious until 1991's Green Mind.

By then, bassist Lou Barlow had left the band and drummer Murph played only on a few tracks before also departing, but I was beguiled by the master musicianship of guitarist J Mascis, along with his lovesick lyrics and laconic, disaffected vocals.

With songs like "The Wagon," "Puke & Cry," "Thumb" and the title track, Green Mind was at the time--and remains--an album I held as dear as any from that watershed year, including Nirvana's Nevermind, Pearl Jam's Ten, R.E.M.'s Out of Time, U2's Achtung Baby and Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magic, all of which I love.

Over the years I've seen Dinosaur Jr. several times in various incarnations--including since 2005 with the original trio--as well as Mascis on his own.

With his brilliant soloing, J genuinely ranks among my five favorite guitarists of all-time, and think I own every CD he and Dinosaur Jr. have released.

To be honest, I often haven't been all that smitten by the band as a live act, but an outdoor street festival show in 2012 found them fantastic.

I hadn't seen Dinosaur Jr. since then, so I was genuinely thrilled when the excellent Evanston SPACE venue included them in their summer "Out of SPACE" series, taking place at a variety of somewhat atypical sites for live music.

These include the Canal Shores Golf Course and the parking lot of Temperance Beer Co. brewpub near Dempster & Dodge, where The New Pornographers played in June--I was traveling so had to miss them--and where Dinosaur Jr. appeared on Thursday night.

Opening act Purling Hiss
The band also played Chicago's Thalia Hall the night before, but the Evanston show had sold out in a hurry, so I was happy not only to be there, but granted a seat as I can no longer comfortably stand through shows.

Though I didn't have any beer, I was glad for the introduction to Temperance--a nifty name for an Evanston brewery given the formerly dry town's 19th century ties to Frances Willard and the Women's Christian Temperance Union--and I patronized a couple of the food trucks on hand.

Overall I found the whole event well run and everyone I encountered--staff and audience--entirely agreeable.

An opening band called Purling Hiss made some enjoyable noise for 45 minutes and Dinosaur Jr. took the stage--as scheduled--right around 8:15pm.

So my @@@1/2 (out of 5) rating merely reflects a performance by Dinosaur Jr. I found mildly disappointing, and even as such I was truly delighted to be present, especially on a very pleasant night. 

With a second guitarist onstage, the band sounded strong enough from the opening notes of "The Lung" off You're Living All Over Me, but there seemed to be only occasional fervor and it was about halfway through the 90-minute set that I first heard a song that truly excited me, "Feel the Pain".

"The Wagon," "Little Fury Things," "Start Choppin'" and "Freak Scene" were joyous, but Dinosaur Jr. eschewed cherished staples like "Out There" and "Get Me"--played at Thalia Hall the night before, but I wasn't there--and though Mascis had some sweet solos proving he's still got the touch into his 50s, he didn't blaze quite enough for me.

Except for rhetorically asking, "What should we play?" before two encore cover songs I didn't recognize nor love--see the setlist here--Mascis also didn't say a word to the crowd all night, though Barlow muttered a few pleasantries.

Mascis' combination of seeming aloofness with musical brilliance is long what I've loved about him, but too much of the gig on a rented stage in an industrial parking lot just felt a tad perfunctory.

The show wasn't bad and the night overall was great.

Just being able to see one of my favorite bands only about 10 minutes from my Skokie home made for a rather special occasion.

So although I didn't quite find it to be a (pre)historic performance, I'd be tickled any time Dinosaur Jr. may again be found in these parts.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Prehistoric dinosaurs under rock. Maybe extinct.