Dinosaur Jr & Built to Spill - O2 Academy Newcastle - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Dinosaur Jr & Built to Spill - O2 Academy Newcastle

by Mark Hammond Rating: Release Date:

The O2 Academy in Newcastle smacks of Northern Soul with its mirror ball and expansive wobble-board dance floor that has you buoyantly riding a crest of zeal as a few hundred indie boys and girls bop around energetically. That is, unless the band is Built To Spill in which case you stand around looking disengaged with your hands in your pockets, far too cool for such vigorous nonsense as toe-tapping. Of course, this is the floor that famously collapsed beneath the esprit of a convoy of Parka-wearers when Ian Brown brought his Mancunian-wares to town. Ian Brown seems to court Iconoclasm that lends itself to fanatical behaviour though. Built To Spill are here to simply play you some extremely good music and get out of Dodge, floor intact.

It's hard to tell who is in the revolving-door line-up of Built to Spill. Doug Martsch stipulated at the band's inception that he intended to alternate members with each album and despite assurances he'd recently settled on a determinate group, I still wouldn't discount the possibility that the bass player switched throughout the set. The band members appeared so static on stage that maybe they were actually shape-shifting at such a rapid rate so as to go unnoticed by the audience. I could have been watching the original cast of Dad's Army performing Built to Spill's back catalogue for all I knew.

The only constant I could be sure of was Martsch at the helm, joyfully strumming out melodies with the finesse that has become the hallmark of one of indie-rock's preeminent guitarists. It's an obvious on-the-road marriage having Built to Spill supporting Dinosaur Jr. Martsch has often cited J Mascis as an influence and the laden riffs augmented by melodic lead playing goes a long way toward validating this. All of the songs seem to sashay along all mellifluous, arresting the attention of all with minimal effort. I often think that those more understated make for the most interesting people and that would also apply to the tacit approach of Built to Spill and their music.

Speaking of understated; J Mascis then ambles out looking like a Terry Pratchett character that just can't be arsed. The long mane has gone Schofield-shock-white and the indie guitar de rigueur, the Fender Jaguar, now sits atop a small pot belly. I'm looking at a Hogwarts drop-out; the perpetual slacker-wizard. The vocals are a little lost in the mix but then the off-kilter drone now immediately associated with Mascis has always sat behind the wash of distortion and high gain. Lou Barlow plays as if his bass were in fact J Mascis during the spat that saw them part ways in 1997, pneumatically pulverising his four strings, his arms more like convulsing tendrils or unattended fire hoses.

'Pieces' announces itself with all the elegance of a bronchial donkey and it's at this point that I notice the man behind the skins boasts a wild head of hair. I consider that Rogaine may have been on the rider but then conclude that the drummer must not be Murph, the bald-headed erstwhile drummer of Dinosaur Jr. Despite the volume at which he plays, Barlow seems to hear my cry and announces "Everyone, this is Kyle!" I feel like I have some sort of telepathic affinity with Lou Barlow and spend the entirety of 'Freak Scene' trying to send him inquisitive messages in the hopes that he'll pick up the microphone and tell me whether or not Built To Spill are in fact a family of shape shifters, for instance. I have no idea who Kyle is but I do know that he is a phenomenal drummer, complementing Barlow's bloodthirsty take on bass playing by savagely slogging on his bruised snare.

Whilst the rhythm section engages in some sado-masochistic exchange, Mascis reliably churns out one melodic guitar solo after another whilst looking as if he'd be just as bored plummeting into the throat of a volcano. That isn't to say there isn't passion in the performance; it's just that Mascis relies on his playing rather than theatrics to convey his sentiments. The stoic cool of the crowd is completely abandoned by the time 'Little Fury Things' explodes and the floor is in danger of sinking once again. Event staff is seen to be having traumatic flashbacks of that fateful night Ian Brown incited total floor carnage. Their fears are certainly not allayed when the crowd erupts at the reappearance of Mascis et al for an encore of The Cure classic 'Just Like Heaven,' the lush original back-combed with a pineapple and given the rough-around-the-edges Dino-treatment.

Then they're off again, maybe to reprise Sebadoh or Witch. Or maybe the détente will actually last and the band will write some more "ear-bleeding country." If Mascis can be arsed.

Comments (1)

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I saw these in Liverpool a few weeks back, gutted I didn't get the 'Just Like Heaven' cover. Have to agree, Kyle is one top drummer.

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