Saturday, January 18, 2014

Even All by Himself, Bob Mould Shows That Few Dü It Better -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Bob Mould
w/ opening act Jason Narducy
Prairie Center for the Arts, Schaumburg, IL
January 17, 2014

I got into Bob Mould 10 years too late—as a Def Leppard and Scorpions-loving 15 year old, I was oblivious to Hüsker Dü—but have gotten virtually all of his albums (including the preceding ones) and seen him live multiple times over the past 20.

I have seen him raging with hard-driving, hardly-take-a-breath rock bands—both under the Sugar moniker and his own—as well as acoustic, both all-by-himself and with another guitarist.

I tend to prefer when Bob goes electric and fronts a band, as Mould at full tilt is one of the great forces of nature. But as a consequence of the non-stop gale, Mould + band have typically seemed to play for a relatively brief—but blistering—70 minutes.

In September, Bob played a band set on Sunday afternoon at Riot Fest in Chicago—on a day of torrential rain, I got there only for the Pixies and Replacements in the evening—and multiple people on the bus afterward proclaimed his the best performance of the day, despite it being just a 40-minute set.

But Mould can be just as intense in a solo acoustic mode, and certainly has the songbook—and voice—to support being onstage all by himself with just a guitar. In getting tickets with my friend Brad to see him Friday night at the Prairie Center of the Arts in Schaumburg (for just $36!), I was expecting an acoustic performance.

What I got—in a pleasant setting but one that felt quite suburban and vaguely scholastic—was a terrific blending of Mould's various incarnations.

Photo of Jason Narducy not by me nor from Friday's show
Opening the evening with an enjoyable 45-minute set was Evanston's Jason Narducy, who is the bassist in Mould's band as well as the front man of a band called Split Single (of which I was unfamiliar).

Onstage alone with an electric guitar, Narducy showed that he is rather adept on the six-string and as a songwriter and vocalist.

I wasn't blown away by any song in particular, but was never bored—high praise for an unfamiliar artist alone onstage for 45 minutes—and was impressed enough to sense Narducy would be all that much better with his band.

I am checking out some Split Single songs on Soundcloud as I write this; last night Narducy also played songs from a former band, Verbow.

And when Mould came onstage, alone, he like Narducy was playing a Fender Strat, fully amplified with various effects petals.

With a large percentage of the frenzy he puts into band shows—or at least did, as he's now 53—Mould proceeded to blaze through songs from all stages of his storied career.

I didn't recognize every song and don't see a setlist yet up on, but there was early solo material, such as the opening "Wishing Well" and "See A Little Light," both from 1989's Workbook, prime cuts from his '90s power trio Sugar—"Hoover Dam," "Your Favorite Thing," "The Act We Act," though a bit disappointingly, no "If I Can't Change Your Mind"—great stuff from 2012's sizzling Silver Age ("Star Machine," "Keep Believing") and classic indie rock chestnuts from Hüsker Dü: "Hardly Getting Over It," "Chartered Trips," "I Apologize," "Flip Your Wig," "Hate Paper Doll," "Makes No Sense At All" and more.

Mould was gracious and verbose, affably complaining about how the light snow prolonged his drive out to Schaumburg from Belmont Avenue, and in playing a raging introductory guitar riff, wryly offering "that could be any of about 14 songs."

Noting that this was his first area appearance since Riot Fest, Bob asked the crowd how they liked The Replacements and, after some cheers, said that he had advised them—similarly-revered, early alt rock Twin Cities compatriots—to perform (for the first time in 20+ years) so that people would stop asking him about a Hüsker Dü reunion.

(Grant Hart, Mould's songwriting counterpart in Hüsker Dü, has maintained a much lower profile over the years but is musically active again, playing at least 2 shows last year at Chicago's Red Line Tap. I caught and reviewed one last January.)

Narducy never came back out on Friday night to accompany his band leader, but although I still think full-band, full-bore Mould showcases him at very his best, at 110 minutes this was the longest I've ever seen him play and it never felt like anything was missing.

In a way, being plugged-in and highly-charged, Mould gave the sold-out and appreciative crowd a superb performance that had the intensity he brings fronting a band, but which also allowed for his insightful and often incisive lyrics to shine through, as they do when he plays an acoustic gig.

And really, I can't readily think of any other rock artist who could stand onstage alone with an electric guitar and give such a performance over nearly 2 hours.

Brad, who had seen and loved Mould at Riot Fest, said he enjoyed this show just as much, and two other friends at Friday's show also found it fantastic. My friend Al, who has seen Mould multiple times, pondered how the Prairie Center—which doesn't program many rock acts—had landed the indie rock icon, especially as Mould is also playing at the Old Town School of Folk Music and City Winery in Chicago this weekend.

But having seen him at the Metro, Riv and Aragon, as well as Old Town and a bit more surprisingly, the Field Museum, it seems clear that Bob Mould's music can satisfy just about anywhere. And whether with a band or solo, acoustic or electric, any Mould way will Dü.


kennymfg said...

Thanks for the great review, I too have been looking around for a setlist. I only recognized about 3-4 songs myself although I've since gone back and listeded to Silver Age about 3 times through. I'm pretty sure he played "Steam of Hercules" on Friday in Schaumburg.

This was my first time seeing Bob Mould and I was absolutely blown away. I will definitely be looking to attend more of his shows.

Anonymous said...

Great Review - came here looking for a setlist and got a great recap.