Lou Barlow at Nice N Sleazy / Dinosaur Jr. at O2 ABC, 16 & 17/11/16

25 Year’s of Sleaze: Lou Barlow at Nice N Sleazy, 16/11/16

Tonight sees a low key intimate acoustic set from Lou Barlow as part of Nice N Sleazy’s 25th celebrations, having played three consecutive shows at the venue years ago, some say 11 some others 16; the foggy memories of those who were there and faithful enough to still be regulars in the pub.

Opening with Will Oldham’s ‘Riding’, the twisted ballad to incest, ode to Sister Lucy, to warm and tune up his voice, he moves on, sufficiently warmed up, and in light-hearted mood Barlow uses the acoustic from Sleazy’s open mic nights to play Bakesale tracks ‘Rebound’ and ‘Skull’.

Barlow, who with messy curls and bandana looks like a grizzly Vietnam vet, earlier, wrapped up in a parka, sat at the side of the room and watched opening act Chrissy Barnacle, and Barlow’s patter is in part inspired her in-depth introductions into her songs.

After highlighting the guilty feelings, folk implosions ‘Spoiled’ is next, after this he gives a nod to an incredibly respectful and admiring audience asking if anyone has any requests, as he rarely does solo sets these days and ‘Too Pure’, standout from 1996’s Harmacy, is a treat.

The elephant that sadly always follows, Dinosaur Jr. is addressed, and a song ‘Don’t Play That Rock and Roll’ from their current album gets an airing.

This show was always going to be a home run, but the mixture of jokey informal conversation with anthems adopted by Nice N Sleazy’s owner, their favourite song, ‘Soul and Fire’, ‘Kath’ and ‘Mystery Man’ builds the whole set to a fitting ending, highlighting how many great songs Barlow has written during his 30-year career.

The guilt and bitterness has mellowed from the angst that came across in Bakesale, Bubble and Scrap and III, instead the songs now sit like memories that bring comfort and reassurance, everyone in the venue can relate to emotional punches pulled that is reinforced by the setting; top gig, happy birthday Nice N Sleazy!

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Dinosaur Jr. at O2 ABC, 17/11/16

Next night Dinosaur Jr. at the ABC we have the total opposite; from the Yates bar at the end of the block Volkswagen Golf owner J Mascis’ three Marshall stacks are heard articulately even above Thursday drinkers.

It is comical when seeing how he has a surrounded by a wall of stacks Mascis still has a Fender amp at head height blaring right into his face, how the man can hear is a miracle, while stage left Barlow has two stacks of amplifier cabinet adding to the noise and while impressive to see and feel it does detract from the audibility of the songs.

Extra drums and guitar are brought out for the Subpop 7” version of ‘The Wagon’ then flowing into the canon of 90s alt rock MTV classics blah blah blah.

I’m being cruel but it is so enjoyable to see what is fast becoming the 90s take on classic rock become rightly classic rock.

Mascis’ guitar leads on tunes such as ‘Out There’, ‘Feel the Pain’ and ‘Start Choppin’’ are iconic in modern guitar playing, nodding to the classic electric guitar playing of the Heartbreakers and Crazy Horse turbo charged with the shred attitude of the 80s.

The majority of the crowd reliving their youth obviously go ecstatic when ‘Freak Scene’ is played; seemingly they haven’t been this happy since they graduated university in 1993-5.

The only sour taste is the legendary bad vibes between Barlow and Mascis, which is a shame.

One can only sit and wait for a Murph tell all autobiography to explain what it is like and the motivation for continuing to release albums; one would hope it is to please the rest of the Volkswagen and Volvo driving men in the audience.

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Words: Paul Choi
Photos: Daphne Michalaki (Lou Barlow) / Erin McKay (Dinosaur Jr.)

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