Posted in music | pictures on April 9, 2009

words by by Martin Longley, photos by Jacob Blickenstaff

Bob Mould

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...

Bob Mould

Bob Mould

Bob Mould

Bob Mould

Bob Mould



Comments (17)

celebrated summer!

Posted by Anonymous | April 9, 2009 3:51 PM

i saw him solo at highline last year...i bet he's much better at joe's pub but i wasnt so inclined to see him again.

that being said, ive been listening to husker du and paul westerberg constantly lately.

Posted by Anonymous | April 9, 2009 4:25 PM

These are all great songs. And the new ones are a welcome addition, though Sorry Baby is far from the best song he's written in 15 years. The album is excellent, and most of the songs are better than that one. It continues to be frustrating though, that in these acoustic shows he refuses to dig deep into his rich songbook of 30 years, and only plays "the hits" and seemingly nothing more. His fan base is committed enough to his music to not expect If I Can't Change Your Mind and Makes No Sense at All, for every single show.
What I would give if he opened ONE set with something other than Wishing Well, a great song, but one that is simply the one he warms up with at a show at this point (which doesn't mean that he doesn't mean it, of course he does, but still, it would be nice to hear something else by now.
I'll be there tonight nonetheless, and will be glad to support the guy.

Posted by Anonymous | April 9, 2009 5:01 PM

there's an excellent interview up with him on conducted at other music.

Posted by Anonymous | April 9, 2009 5:48 PM

how is his new album?

Posted by Anonymous | April 9, 2009 9:54 PM

new album - ten songs - two good, one eh, three excellent, three awesome, one near top-tier Bob.
more guitar solos than in years, but also acoustically based along with some big guitar stuff.
most organic/warm/natural/direct sounding album in a long time.
While Body of Song was a Sugary hooky rush of guitar (and Brendan Canty's groove), and the last album District Line was full of craft, skill, hooks, variety,if not entirely vital and compelling (and Brendan Canty's groove) - neither of those albums really got under one's skin as his great work does, but I think this new one does. This one rises to the level of the vintage standard for around 80% of it. It still isn't 1983 to 1993, but in a way it stands with the likes of FU:EL and the best parts of Dog and Pony
This one is consistently good, without "Mega Mega"...or too many vocoder appearances.
So,it's a live one. A big plus on the playing side is Jon Wurster, who does a great job here...not the Canty groove, but something somehow more fitting this material - a warm no-frills, no nonsense yet inventive approach to the songs. Looking forward to hearing the Superchunkster with Bob live in the fall.

And remove all breakables at the 2:30 guitar break of Wasted World (a song about wasting away on the internet instead of living - hmm, better go do something). And Argos is a fun raging Du-esque romp in the basement of a sex club.
no ambiguities on that one...ha.

The second Joe's Pub show -
Same set but omitted two songs unfortunately - Bad Blood Better and Silence Between Us.

Ironically given an earlier post, Wishing Well was perhaps the best song of the set. He sang it with a strength and melodic fervor that I haven't heard him give that tune in ages. Mould fans sometimes complain that in live performances he tends to alter the vocal melodic lines, occasionally losing the original melodies, but not tonight. And Jason Narducy's backing vocals were helpful in that regard. JN also played some nice second guitar parts for two other Workbook tunes. The Workbook mini-set (half the album!) was the clear peak of the show. But the second half had some problems - Bob seemed distracted by something - either technical or crowd-related.
Though appreciative, this audience was eating burgers, drinking, talking, and that is a strange way to experience this music from this performer.
I had hoped he would have given the new album more attention, but he appeared to sense that the crowd wasn't as focused for that as the should have been. So after a quick run of three new songs, he put on the electric and sprinted to the end of the show - but for me, the acoustic shows are better when they are just that, acoustic.
The Husker tunes, and Sugar songs, played duo electric, badly missed drums; because the instrumentation and arrangements of these songs were basically the band versions, it just came across as a show where the drummer didn't show up.
"Power Duo"? Eh.
More acoustic songs would have made it a fuller experience.
That said, Bob is a generous and intense performer, even on a perceived off night.
Perhaps he realized though, that a trendy pub might not be the ideal venue for his intimate acoustic shows? Funniest line from him to a guy who kept yelling out deep-cut songs like "The Slim" and even the Golden Palominos song Bob did "Dying from the Inside Out":

"Hey, you need another Hamburger or something?"

Too many hamburgers and fried shrimp while one of the most important rock musicians of the last generation was playing his music.
But to his credit, he was just out there being a musician making his living.

The band shows will be fantastic I'm sure.

Posted by Anonymous | April 10, 2009 12:27 AM

Joes Pub is a great venue, though I guess it depends whos doing sound on that particular night but this venue does suit him very well. Its not really a pub after all is it kids?

Posted by music pr dood | April 10, 2009 12:49 AM

Unfortunately it was not an ideal venue tonight.
It could have been, but the atmosphere just wasn't the way most BM solo shows usually are.
Still not bad, and the audience was with him, but people were eating dinner....that's an ideal venue for Bob Mould?? I don't think so.

Posted by Anonymous | April 10, 2009 2:38 AM

Saw Bob @ Joe's Pub on Wednesday. Excellent show...great acoustics...awesome. Can't wait til October.

Posted by Susie | April 10, 2009 6:38 AM

The vibe at Joe's Pub is all wrong except for safe-muzak like Suzanne Vega.

I didn't see this past show of Bob's. But his acoustic shows suck. His songs are lifeless without some distortion and electricity. He's been doing the acoustic thing for a lot of years now with very little change. Quit kidding yourselves. So boring as acoustic.

Posted by Anonymous | April 10, 2009 8:46 AM

His solo shows used to be great, years ago when he would diversify his set, and would keep it mostly just him and his twelve string. They were good shows when the solo route was his diversion/side gig, where he would try out new songs, and such, 1991, 93, 95, 97, in between albums, etc. Those were always meaningful shows.
And then he'd come back with any of his bands and do his full shows. But since the solo gigs became his main touring situation and the band shows were the rare ones, it has been different. The solos shows can still be solid, but as was said before, he does too many of the same songs - a pool of 20ish songs, forgetting so many great tunes he could do, which would give these shows a fresh perspective. He is always a committed and vital performer, but I do have to agree that his music works best with all guns blazing - only the workbook songs always work without the big guitars. And those were the only songs that went over well musically at Joe's Pub. They still sound great.

Posted by Anonymous | April 10, 2009 1:01 PM

does anon 12:27 have his own blog? he needs one because that was some honest writing that is definitely missing in a lot of places.....

Posted by Anonymous | April 10, 2009 3:58 PM

don't all of you dorks have your own blogs?

Posted by Anonymous | April 10, 2009 4:04 PM

nah, we post here so that folks like anon 404 feels all cool and superior with pithy asides calling us dorks and whatnot.
thanks for the compliment 358.


Posted by Anonymous | April 11, 2009 2:05 AM

whoops 12:27 that is...dorky mistake.

(5:01 and 1:01 too...avid BM listener writing re. show and album, etc.) cheers.

Posted by Anonymous | April 11, 2009 2:08 AM

Saw him in Chicago on March 29th. It was incredible.

Posted by Patrick | April 12, 2009 10:59 PM

He was awesome in Phila as usual. I emailed him prior to the show asking for a "Too Far down" but it was not to be.

Posted by playsquash | April 25, 2009 12:12 PM

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