words by by Martin Longley, photos by Jacob Blickenstaff
Even though singer/guitarist Bob Mould's two shows at Joe's Pub are sold-out, this joint didn't oversell its tickets, and there was still plenty of room to breathe, even back at the bar area at the first performance last night (April 8). The show started promptly, working against a strict curfew and Bob loaded with a prolific songbook to churn through. It was the day after the release of Life And Times, a swift follow-up to last year's District Line, and Mould was concentrating on its contents, as well as celebrating the 20th anniversary of his solo debut Workbook.
Mould's songs are melodic, but act almost as a suite of layered-tone pieces, rarely pausing in-between each short number, and constructed out of jangled chords and vaulting vocals, building up his distinctive wall of sound. He's remarkable not so much as a tunesmith, but as a generator of unlimited energy, commitment and expressiveness, concerned with texture, drive and cumulative impact.
Normally, artist evolution is praiseworthy, and don't we just hate folks who endlessly bay out for their fave songs from two decades back [?], but it can't be avoided that Mould feels like a teaser when it comes to the fully electrified guitar. Clearly, his fans are begging for the feedback surge of those Hüsker Dü days, myself included. His spangling, highly amplified acoustic axe is fine for the epic sweep of his material, but when he snatches up the electric guitar in the final third of the set, there's a definite sense of pent-up release, as the distortion rips out in a scaly peeling of burnt skin. Mould proffers a tease-taster of this earlier on, as he trips an effects button on his acoustic for a brief overload solo. Strangely, the first guitar mini freak-out of the nite comes courtesy of sideman Jason Narducy, who also plays bass for much for the duration.
It turns out that the onstage drumkit is there for the next band, at the 9.30pm set, but its presence inadvertently becomes a part of the evening's tantalization. All through the set we're wondering if a sticks-being is going to pounce onstage and unleash some propulsive thunder. Mould introduces "I'm Sorry, Baby, But You Can't Stand In My Light Any More" as the best song he's written in 15 years, but it has to be said that the set's highlights couldn't help being two of its oldest works: "I Apologize" and "Makes No Sense At All". Next time he's in New York, probably October, Mould is promising to bring out a fully-rocking all-electric combo.
The second of two shows at Joe's Pub is tonight (April 9th). More pictures from last night, including one of the setlist, below...