Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Stay That Way Until: Blasting Through Old and Brand New, Bob Mould Remains True -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Bob Mould
solo electric
w/ opening act Jason Narducy
SPACE, Evanston
October 11, 2015

Turning 55 on Friday, Bob Mould has been--if never a household name--a musician of certain renown for about 35 years.

Initially with the seminal Minneapolis power trio Hüsker Dü, then on his own before and after fronting another power trio, Sugar, Mould has long been legendary (in astute musical circles) for his incisive songwriting and his unrivaled ferocity onstage.

Nothing that took place in the intimate confines of SPACE, where Mould performed for 90 nearly nonstop minutes Sunday night with just an electric guitar and an overtaxed amplifier, contradicted this.

But along with showing him to be a gifted, passionate artist with a stellar body of work, the last gig of a short tour that has Mould trying out a selection of newly-written songs also reminded that for all his talents, he is essentially a working man.

As he explained from the stage, Mould has kept a low profile this year, largely eschewing playing live for writing new songs.

This involved getting up every day at 7:00 a.m. to write, resulting in "about 50 songs, of which 12 might be good enough to wind up on an album."

So in realizing that stellar collections of songs, such as on 2014's Beauty and Ruin and 2012's Silver Age, don't come automatically even for a composer of Mould's stature, it was cool to hear him test out the presumed best of "six months of my life."

That on a first listen the new material--including "The End of Things," "Hold On," "Lucifer and God" and "Black Confetti"--held up well amidst gems from across Mould's career, made this "tryout" performance all the more thrilling.

Strictly in terms of set pacing, it may had been preferable for the 9 new songs to be intermingled rather than played en masse--as a certain sameness started to emerge without a band to flesh things out--but I will trust whatever Mould feels helps him best test and shape his latest work. Especially in getting to see him from just a few feet away, 15 minutes from my home.

Further attesting to how hard Mould has worked to remain relevant, recent album tracks like "The Descent," "I Don't Know You Anymore," "Hey Mr. Grey" and "The War" sounded no less stellar than classics from Husker Du ("I Apologize," "Chartered Trips," "Celebrated Summer," "Hardly Getting Over It" and the show-closing "Makes No Sense at All"), Sugar ("Hoover Dam," "Your Favorite Thing," "If I Can't Change Your Mind") and 1990's solo Workbook album  ("See A Little Light," "Lonely Afternoon."

While Mould remains a sonic and visceral tour de force of nature alone on a stage in a comfortable, seated, suburban venue, seeing him solo isn't quite as mindblowing as in full-band mode.

But with Evanston's Jason Narducy, who has long played bass in Mould's touring band, delivering a fine 40-minute opening set (including several songs from his own band, Split Single), it inarguably was a delectable evening of terrific music.

Some of which I'd never heard before; all of which I'll relish hearing again.

Old or new, a mighty wallop of Bob Mould will always Dü.

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