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Music DVD Review: Dinosaur Jr.: Live in the Middle East

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In 1989, Dinosaur Jr. imploded in one of rock music’s most acrimonious band divorces. Fortunately, the band reformed with its original line-up and released a new CD Beyond and this concert DVD.  Live in the Middle East demonstrates that the reunion of J. Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Emmett “Murph” Murphy still has the power and virtuosity of the old days of the band. The one hour and twenty-three minute concert was filmed at Boston's Middle East and at NYC's Irving Plaza. The quality of the recording is good; it is composed with handheld cameras and a few fixed angles. It’s a bit fuzzy and the stage is small, but not enough to distract from the jaw-dropping music and performance.

Dinosaur Jr. is the original American grunge band, creating music before record companies discovered Seattle and marketed a movement. Most of the songs the band performs on this DVD are from their second release You're Living All Over Me, including the band's rendition of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven." This CD is by far Dinosaur Jr.'s strongest release. The vocals on the DVD match the music better than the CD recordings; in other words, they sound as gritty as the music. This, of course, is the benefit of seeing live music. Music nearly always sounds better performed live. Especially in this case, as for example you can hear on the DVD recording of "Little Fury Things" — the vocals match the sludgy guitar sounds. In fact, the guitar in the live renditions of songs such as Kracked, Gargoyle, and Raisans have more distortion than they do on the band's CDs, if you can believe that!

The special features include interviews with Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Mike Watt (The Minutemen, fIREHOSE), Steve Albini (Big Black), Kevin Shields (Sonic Boom), and Matt Dillon. (We’ll forgive the admission of Mr. Dillon to these illustrious rock 'n roll ranks since he does a mean Henry Chinaski.) These equally-talented contemporaries of Dinosaur Jr. offer insights into the band's sound and popularity. They add a little context and their own critical opinions, but for Dino Jr.fans — the most likely purchasers of this DVD — not much is new.

Dinosaur Jr. is wrapping up a European tour and are heading next to Australia and Japan.  For more information you can visit Dinosaur Jr.'s website, or visit the
Dinosaur Jr. MySpace space.

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