Just like heaven
Dinosaur Jr | My Bloody Valentine | The Cure
The Where You Been 30th anniversary gigs in London were a masterclass in how to make a full album show special
Performing a beloved album in full is a very particular approach to a greatest hits show and one that’s increasingly common.
This year NOFX made the ploy an integral part of their ongoing farewell tour and Quicksand were among those approaching their work on a more limited scale, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Slip by playing it in full.
Next year, When We Were Young will all out with the approach and have over 50 punk rock, emo and heavy bands perform a key album in full. The Las Vegas festival will play host to the likes of My Chemical Romance (playing The Black Parade), Pretty Girls Make Graves (The New Romance), The Distillers (Coral Fang) and Jimmy Eat World (Bleed American).
Meanwhile, for the reformed Pixies it’s been a regular part of their live plans since they did Doolittle in full back in 2009. Next year they’ll tour Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde together, by which time they’ll have played, track-by-track, all of the albums they recorded before their original incarnation split in 1992.
So, all told, there’s a lot of these kinds of shows around.
They’re still exciting for fans (Bob Mould’s 2012 Copper Blue show in London certainly was for me). It’s just, the more they occur, the less they have quite the same ‘wow’ factor of, say, Sonic Youth playing Daydream Nation as part of the Don’t Look Back concert series.
Amid all of today’s looking back, something this newsletter’s obviously happy to indulge in, some gigs of this type still stand out and Dinosaur Jr doing Where You Been in London last week was one of them.
They’re one of my favourite bands, and it’s my favourite of their albums, and I’ve never managed to see them live before. So, arguably, they would have just had to turn up to get me frothing at the mouth. But the Where You Been gigs did so much more.
The band have previous form at this sort of thing, having done Don’t Look Back shows for both You’re Living All Over Me and then Bug. This time around they scheduled a four-night run at the relatively small Garage in Islington (capacity 600), supported each night by the noise guitar disco of Man on Man (a fun duo of Roddy Bottum and his partner Joey Holman).
The Where You Been shows’ secret weapon were their guests for the catalogue-spanning set that followed the album.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
First, it was loud. That wasn’t a surprise, but it also probably can’t be overstated.
I’m not sure I’ve seen that many Marshall amps before. I’ve certainly not stood just 10 feet away from them, after grabbing the opportunity of a place right by the stage barrier.
Singer and guitarist J Mascis was a study in beatitude through volume, allowing me to get some a-typically half decent pictures. Bassist Lou Barlow on the other hand all movement and mainly appeared on my phone’s camera as a blur. Along with drummer Murph, the band was tight – as they should be, having put out some their best albums in just the last decade.
But the night was about a 30-year-old piece of work, and Where You Been was a revelation live. Shorn of its multiple layers of guitar on record, a powerful ‘Out There’ foregrounded a single strand of J’s guitar virtuosity in all its six-minute glory to open the set. ‘Start Choppin’’ provoked some light moshing behind me, and my other favourites from the album – ‘Get Me’ and ‘Goin’ Home’ – were deftly emotional.
J’s comment before they started that they were going to ‘attempt’ to play the album, was somewhat borne out by the lyric boards by his feet for several of Where You Been’s less often played songs. But he needn’t have worried, the first 50 minutes or so of the gig passed in a blaze of glorious guitar-driven noise.
And then there were the guests, who across the different shows variously included Bernard Butler (ex-Suede), Blur’s Graham Coxon, Andy Blade from Eater, Little Barrie’s Barrie Cadogan and more.
The night I went the highlight was My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields (!!) – and if I thought it was loud before he stepped on stage…
Alongside Kevin, they played the distinctive My Bloody Valentine deep cut ‘Thorn’, Dinosaur Jr’s own ‘Tarpit’ and then broke out their cover of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’. The song was similarly a highlight when I saw The Cure last year at Wembley Arena and I still can’t decide which version was more thrilling.
When it came to the Dinosaur Jr’s final song of the night, and nothing from Bug had yet appeared in the set, an audience shout of ‘Freak Scene’ was met with a laconic “Y’think?” from J, before they launched into the indie rock hit and everyone went home with their ears happily ringing.
One member of the audience may have been sighted sporting a Wayne’s World cap, but the night was as far away as you could get from a nostalgia-fest of by-the-numbers playing.
Truly, we were not worthy, and it was excellent.
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