Dinosaur Jr & Office Dog – Auckland Town Hall: March 2, 2024 (Concert Review)

Dinosaur Jr shattered a few eardrums last night at Auckland Town Hall. We sent Jeff Neems to the show…after all they are one of his fave bands.

Going to see a favourite band or musician perform is an exercise fraught with a mix of trepidation and excitement.

Dinosaur JrWill they perform your favourite songs?

What will the merchandise be like?

How long will they play for?

Will the emotion of the event – particularly if you’ve been waiting a long time – become a little too much?

Is it earplugs in, or earplugs out?

Should I have a few drinks or remain sober?

Will I actually get to sleep after seeing my idols with my own eyes, right in front of me?

These, and several other questions were on my mind last night, when after a seven-year gap, Massachusetts indie-rock trio Dinosaur Jr made a return to New Zealand to perform.

Dear reader, you need some context before we go any further.

This is my favourite rock’n’roll act, by quite a massive sentimental margin.

Dinosaur JrFronted by the drawling mono-syllabic alt-rock Gandalf and guitar hero J Mascis – who is ably supported by bassist Lou Barlow (Sebadoh) and drummer Emmett “Murph” Murphy III – Dinosaur Jr has soundtracked my entire adult life. I still vividly remember hearing the band’s music for the first time, in 1991, when a friend popped a copy of the album Green Mind into the tape deck of his Datsun, and told me “I think you’ll quite like this”. He rather underestimated my response to the band from Amherst, where Mascis still lives.

Thirty-three years on from 1991 and I have about 90% of the band’s material: gaps in the collection are few 7″ and 12″ singles, but otherwise I’ve got the lot – all 12 albums (dating back to 1985’s Dinosaur, when they didn’t even have the Jr attached to their name), numerous EPs, coloured discs, etched discs, DVDs and posters. I’ve watched the documentary several times. I’ve even interviewed Mascis by phone (it was hard work, he doesn’t say much). I’ve seen Dinosaur Jr or Mascis perform eight times in two different countries. I’m in the fan group on Facebook where the serious frothing and nerdery occurs.

I am what the kids would call “a Dino-stan”.

So, even though those aforementioned questions were swimming in my mind when I arrived at the Auckland Town Hall, I actually pretty much knew what I was going to get last night, because I’m a geek for this band.

Having reformed as the original trio in 2005 – the departure of Barlow after Bug (1988), and Murph later on, are entirely separate stories – Dinosaur Jr has recorded and released music fairly consistently since then. Like many of their peers, they’re now celebrating past albums, and last night’s Auckland gig was the final show of a short Australasian tour to mark 30 years since the release of Where You Been (1993), their fifth album overall and second on the major label imprint Blanco Y Negro (a division of Warner Music). It’s widely recognised as the most commercially successful and accessible album the band has done.

Dinosaur JrSo to get things underway, they performed Where You Been in its entirety – all 10 songs, opening with Out There and Start Choppin’, to the adoration of a crowd made up mainly of grey-haired and balding blokes in their 40s and 50s, sprinkled with a few women from the same generation and also some younger folks (my wife and I took our two daughters, who are 22 and 19). On The Way was particularly intense, but the highlights of the Where You Been section were the plaintiff and downtempo single Get Me (I will admit I fully choked up hearing that one) and the melodic and thoughtful Goin’ Home.

Once done with Where You Been, and with time ticking by, the trio moved on to material from the rest of their career. Garden, on which Barlow sings, is a more recent composition, and that was followed by a superb rendition of Been There All The Time. 

When they got to The Wagon – the song which introduced me to their music, and the lead single from Green Mind – I was unable to speak and my eyes got a bit wet. Ever one to keep an eye on my needs, my wife videoed that song – and only that song – while I battled to keep my emotions in check.

Little Fury Things, from You’re Living All Over Me (1987), followed and was the only selection from that album. After the obligatory Feel The Pain (from Without a Sound, 1994), Dinosaur Jr closed the main part of the show with a particularly intense version of Forget The Swan, taken from the debut album (Dinosaur, 1985) … back when they were still trying to sound like The Cure and and The Smiths. For the live rendition, Mascis added a lengthy and furious guitar solo which added several minutes and layers of intensity.

The two-song encore was largely as anticipated, with Freak Scene – the sing-along hit from Bug (1988, famously described as “the sound of a band tearing itself apart”) – before the show closed with their well-known cover of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven.

Eighty minutes of guitar-driven power-full and at times overwhelming wall-of-noise alt-rock, just as I’d predicted.

It’d be churlish to complain about aspects of last night’s show, but there were a few disappointments. At times Mascis’ trademark voice was lost in the sound mix, a real shame since he sounded superb and was nailing the high notes (this does not always happen). Little effort was made to engage the crowd, beyond a few perfunctory song introductions – in the past Barlow has been more conversational, but perhaps that’s more a reflection of the cavernous nature of the famous concert hall. And if I’m being totally honest, I’d have liked a few more songs – particularly from the first three records (yes, I am one of those people) – particularly since this was the last show of the tour. They didn’t play The Lung, which is the largely instrumental song I really wanted to hear.

But ultimately those are minor quibbles. Mascis, Barlow and Murphy are now into their late 50s and they’ve been doing this a long time. They’re a well-oiled professional machine delivering largely the same performance night in, night out.  It’s intense, loud and – for what it is – very tight. Barlow brings the energy (constantly on the move, face hidden by his mop of long hair), Murphy drums metronomically, while Mascis does the vast majority of the singing and shreds away on a plethora of different guitars (mainly Fender Jazzmasters) and pedals.

I wonder if Dinosaur Jr will ever return to New Zealand. It’s a hell of an effort to get here, and I do envy American and European fans, as it’s those two areas where the band tours on average once a year.

If I don’t see Dinosaur Jr perform again, I have mementos of last night’s show to remind me – the obligatory T-shirt, a set-list I nabbed from the sound technician, and videos of several songs.

All of which I can add to a collection for a band which I will never stop loving, and whose music means more to me than, at times, I can put into words – I mean, I’d go back tonight if there was a second show (there isn’t, although Barlow did his own stuff at Whammy Bar on Friday).

Office DogAuckland young’uns Office Dog were a great choice as the warm-up act, and I was impressed by their sound which blended elements of the aforementioned rock acts of their parents’ generation, as well as shoe-gaze sounds a la Slowdive and Galaxie 500. They’re also a trio, and while their sound needs a little polishing – there were a couple of moments when it seemed they were slightly out of synch – Office Dog were fun, and have a bright future.

Jeff Neems

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Brenna Jo Gotje:

Dinosaur Jr:

Office Dog:

Dinosaur Jr Setlist:

  1. Out There
  2. Start Choppin
  3. What Else Is New
  4. On the Way
  5. Not the Same
  6. Get Me
  7. Drawerings
  8. Hide
  9. Goin’ Home
  10. I Ain’t Sayin’
  11. Garden
  12. Been There All the Time
  13. The Wagon
  14. Little Fury Things
  15. Feel the Pain
  16. Forget the Swan


  1. Freak Scene
  2. Just Like Heaven 

(The Cure cover)