Can an old punk-rock band be better than you remembered?
The original brooding trio of Dinosaur Jr didn't survive beyond the '80s, yet still managed to influence much of the coming indie/grunge explosion. Onstage Wednesday at the Avalon, Dinosaur Jr resurrected itself maybe better than ever, igniting spasms of melody and noise that were surprisingly fresh and jarring.
Rocking out is good for them. By the '90s, singer-bassist Lou Barlow had been forced out, and he and singer-guitarist J Mascis drifted into works of understated folk gloom. But Dinosaur Jr's 70-minute set focused entirely on the band's high-decibel '80s work, beginning with Barlow's "Gargoyle," a song from the band's 1985 debut album.
Barlow warned fans that Mascis had a cold from traveling on airplanes over the past two weeks. But it didn't seem to slow Mascis at all, with guitar soloing that was the main attraction and musical exclamation point, an unlikely fusion of Sonic Youth and the Allman Brothers.
Barlow and Mascis enjoyed legit careers and followings in and out of Dinosaur Jr, but on Wednesday they were clearly better off as a team (along with original drummer Murph). The result was direct and passionate at the Avalon in a way the albums never quite managed, from the Sabbath worship of "Sludgefeast" to a roughed-up cover of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven" that was louder and mopier than the pop original.
Support act Modey Lemon arrived from Pittsburgh as a fitting appetizer, rocking an intense racket of indie rock, building a wall of sound that was like the MC5 without the guitar solos.