Dinosaur Jr. celebrated the 25th anniversary of their iconic second album, You’re Living All Over Me, in New York City last night with a little help from Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo, the Smiths’ Johnny Marr and Frank Black of the Pixies.
There were a number of surprises in what guitarist and lead singer J Mascis called an “extravaganza” at Terminal 5 in Midtown. The band invited a coterie of guests to play Dinosaur Jr. staples and selected cover songs, but first they performed their 1987 album in its entirety. Joined by Ranaldo on vocals for the opener, “Little Fury Things,” the trio plowed all the way through to the end of the album.
“All right. Thanks a lot. That was side one,” Mascis said at one point, as if the audience were all listening to the record together for the first time.
Bassist Lou Barlow even broke out the ukulele for “Poledo,” the oddball psychedelic closer. “This is the awkward ending to an amazing album,” he said while tuning the instrument. The song had marked Barlow’s debut in what became a prolific career as a lo-fi singer-songwriter.
After completing the album, the revolving door of musicians started to swing. The unannounced entrance of Frank Black shocked the crowd as he joined the group to play a song from their recent album, I Bet On Sky, before launching into a fuzzed-out version of the Pixies’ “Tame.”
Dinosaur Jr. then wandered into the stoner and doom metal realm with Harvey Milk’s Kyle Spence taking the drums, Sleep’s Al Cisneros on bass, and Kurt Vile joining in on second guitar on the song “Alone” from 1997’s Hand It Over.
Johnny Marr, who is known for playing guitar with both the Smiths and Modest Mouse, joined the band as the Melvins’ Dale Crover manned the drum set and Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew took the vocals for “Wagon” before they all rocked out a version of the Smiths’ classic tune “The Boy With The Thorn in His Side.”
As if chronicling their entire career together, Mascis and Barlow even performed a cut from their early hardcore band Deep Wound. It was a poignant moment for a pair of musicians who haven’t always been on the same astral plane.
Kim Gordon gave a passionate performance of “Don’t” from the band’s 1988 album, Bug. Gordon howled, screamed, cooed, and got down on her knees to deliver the song’s single line and only lyric (“Why don’t you like me?”) over and over again with increasing intensity. Kurt Vile provided additional shredding once again on second guitar.
The encore included Dino Jr. favorites “Start Choppin’” and “Freak Scene,” with Kevin Drew joining in to add some falsetto. The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson briefly jumped in on bass.
The event was a fitting tribute to both the band and their landmark effort from 25 years ago. Each aspect of the group was personified in the diverse cast of characters. The reticent glazed-eye heavy metal of Sleep, the poppy melodic sound of the Smiths, fuzz pedal dissonance of Sonic Youth, and the grungy punk of the Pixies. It may be hard to replicate the unique sound of Dinosaur Jr., but last night gave a pretty good synopsis of where it comes from.