Dinosaur Jr. @ The Stylus, Leeds 31 January 2013

It’s beginning to feel like they’ve never been away. Dinosaur Jr. it seems, are well and truly back.

Here in the UK to showcase their pleasingly excellent new record, I Bet On Sky, the veteran Amherst, Massachusetts band swing by Leeds Uni Stylus to show any young pretenders how it is done.

Opening act Little Barrie prove a solid enough warm-up, but despite their best efforts, just a couple of songs into their set and I am more than ready for the main event.

And the expectant Leeds crowd don’t have to wait too long for J, Lou and Murph to enter the fray.

After a rapturous welcome, the band start proceedings with the thunderous closer ‘See It On Your Side’ from their recently released I Bet On Sky album.It is an unexpected but impressive beginning, though it is undoubtedly the all-time classic ‘The Lung’ from 1987 breakthrough album You’re Living All Over Me  that really thrusts the crowd into what was an increasingly enthralling show.

And I’ll be damned if they haven’t got even better live in recent years. Lou Barlow dances along gamely to his own Peter Hook obsessed basslines, J Mascis thrashes away at his guitar in his inimitable slacker style and Murph bashes the drums as cooly as ever.

The band manage to mix up the set well, with stellar new songs like ‘Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know’ and The Barlow fronted ‘Rude’ sitting comfortably next to classic tear-ups like ‘The Wagon’ and  ‘Out There’.

As ever, J Mascis engages with the audience only through his amp-shredding guitar, leaving it up to the charismatic Barlow to talk in between songs with the pumped up Leeds crowd.

Indeed, it is Barlow who introduces a song from his and J’s previous high-school band, the defiantly hardcore Deep Wound.

A truly great show is fittingly bookended by a thrilling encore, with the always epic ‘Sludgefeast’ and the band’s legendarily incendiary cover of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’  ensuring plenty of crowd surfing and stage diving mayhem ensue, despite the hapless efforts of the Leeds Uni Security Staff to stop it. Despite all this going on around him, J stands, almost Zen-like, smashing out another intricate guitar solo as if he was in a studio on his own.

Since J, Lou and Murph finally buried the hatchet and reunited the original Dinosaur Jr. lineup in 2005, it has simply been onwards and upwards for this legendary band.

What makes seeing reunion Dinosaur Jr. so special is that the band still feels as vital and important as ever, and the new songs and albums, especially 2007 Beyond and 2009’s Farm, easily stand up to the best work of the SST and early Sire years.

Though the band is certainly not averse to plucking classics like the aforementioned ‘Sludgefeast’ and ‘Freak Scene’ out the vaults to please long-time fans, the set was, to no tangible disappointment, top-heavy with songs from the latest record. This was not some wistful, nostalgic trip down memory lane but an incredible, sonic assault on the senses from a band at the top of their game.

If anything, these dudes have got even better now they’re older, wiser and no longer living all over one other.