Dinosaur Jr. split the difference at First Avenue

Dinosaur Jr. attracted a mixed crowd of young and old to First Avenue Wednesday night.  As could be expected, there were plenty of bushy beards and flannel shirts milling about, but there were also a number of goatees and shaved heads in attendance to remind one that the band's following extends well beyond the current younger generation of concertgoers.  Fittingly, the Massachusetts trio played a variety of songs from its '80s heyday - as well as some great cuts from its '90s back catalog - alongside more recent material in a show that had a little something for all its fans.

While the band has recorded two excellent albums since reuniting four years ago, they started the show with a pair of older songs.  "Thumb" kicked things off, its lethargic chords setting a relaxed tone as pot smoke wafted through the air.  Then Lou Barlow's thundering bass line from "Kracked" smashed things open, the song's explosive twists and turns eliciting enthusiastic cheers from the crowd, who sang along and jerked about to the music.

Opening duo MV & EE had played their bleached psych folk amidst Dinosaur Jr.'s equipment, J. Mascis' towering amplifier stacks warning of the ear-damaging squall that lay in store. While J. did tear into some hot solos, the set settled into a slower tempo early on as the band played a number of songs off last summer's Farm and took its time between numbers.

Songs like "Pieces" and "Plans" fit in well with the older material, the vocals unusually clear in the mix, but - especially in the case of the latter - they sometimes stretched out a bit and the audience seemed less familiar with them.  Those in attendance seemed most responsive to the classics, so when "Feel the Pain" arrived the momentum of the show finally began to pick up.

"Over It's" screaming wah pedal signaled a shift to shorter, more explosive songs, Lou thrashing about as he wrestled out increasingly lumbering bass lines while J. continued to merely rock back and forth.  "Little Fury Things," with its signature howls and enormous whammy bar dives, got the audience dancing and brought things to a fever pitch, which "Back to Your Heart" - sounding like vintage Sebadoh - more than maintained.

"Freak Scene" brought the climax of the night, heads bobbing all around as even J. swung his guitar over his head and afterwards let out a deadpan "woo-hoo."  With the audience chanting and cheering, Dinosaur Jr. returned for an encore, "I Don't Want to Go There" featuring some of the night's fiercest guitar work over Murph's crashing drum fills.

Amidst requests for "Raisins" and "Just Like Heaven," the band brought the night full circle with "The Wagon," which rather surprisingly seemed to leave those with other choices a little disappointed, such was their enthusiasm.  Nonetheless, it was an inspired end to a concert that sent everyone out the door buzzing.