Sunday, May 08, 2016

Pedal to Floor, Non-Stop Roar: At 55, Bob Mould Continues to Far Exceed the Speed Limit -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Bob Mould w/ band
w/ opening act J. Robbins
Metro, Chicago
May 6, 2016

Before Friday night, there were 10 rock artists I'd seen live in concert at least 10 times. 

Appropriately, Bob Mould now makes that list "go to 11."

I wasn't cognizant enough of Hüsker Dü in real time to have seen Mould with his groundbreaking 1980s power trio, but have seen him perform in several incarnations beginning in 1994 with his second trio, Sugar.

I have seen him alone with an acoustic guitar, solo with an electric guitar, acoustically paired with another guitarist, with a 4-piece band (incidentally with subsequent 2-time Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris on guitar) and, as again on Friday at Metro, with Evanston's Jason Narducy on bass and drummer Jon Wurster rounding out yet another power trio.

Mould has been enjoyable in all forms, but there is nothing--and no one--like him in a full-tilt, band-backed frenzy.

And at the age of 55, he shows no signs of slowing down, as evidenced by a blistering 80-minute set in which there were virtually no pauses between songs, about a dozen total words spoken and only the initial part of Hüsker Dü's "Hardly Getting Over It" late in the show to slightly quell the deafening blast.

While Mould looks to be in better physical shape now than in his 20s, it's interesting to note that 18 years ago, at the age of 37, he claimed the  Last Dog and Pony Show tour--the one with Cerveris on-board--was to be his last with an electric band, at the breakneck pace for which he's always been known.

There are too many matters of real concern to even raise an eyebrow at rock stars reneging on the their retirements and such, and I'm quite glad that the Minneapolis native essentially decided in 2005 that "this is what I do, and love, so why not do it, at least sometimes."

A free, outdoor, summertime gig at Millennium Park in 2014 with the same trio was likewise balls-to-the-wall phenomenal, but this Metro show--which I wasn't even planning to attend until friends who were couldn't use their tickets--was particularly fun as it followed a solo electric evening with Bob Mould just last October at Evanston's SPACE.

Though there he also played Hüsker Dü, Sugar and solo chestnuts, the focus of that show was trying out new material before putting it on an upcoming album. 

As I wrote then, songs like "The End of Things," "Hold On," "Lucifer and God" and "Black Confetti" held up well against past glories, so it was cool to note they made it onto his terrific new Patch the Sky record, from which the first two songs cited and others made Friday's setlist.

Truthfully, I only started familiarizing myself with Patch the Sky a week before the show, so it's to the credit of his adept songwriting--though also an elemental hard-charging-guitar-driven similarity across much of his material--that new songs like the two mentioned above, plus "You Say You," "Losing Time" and others came across as delectably as four tunes from Sugar's wondrous Copper Blue and several Hüsker Dü gems like "I Apologize," "Celebrated Summer," "Hate Paper Doll" and the closing "Makes No Sense at All." (See Bob Mould's Chicago full setlist here at

In fact, I wish more of the new album was included, as "Lucifer and God" and "Pray for Rain" are among my favorites that weren't showcased at Metro.

But while the same can be said about numerous great songs from across Mould's illustrious career--heck, 2012's Silver Age and 2014's Beauty & Ruin are filled with thunderous wonders of which few could be culled, let alone the rest of the solo and band catalogs--the obvious skill, effort and fury he, Narducy and Wurster put into their time onstage makes setlist selections almost immaterial.

Everything sounds great.

And if I didn't hear "Helpless" or "Chartered Trips" or "Egøverride" or "Your Favorite Thing" this time, not only might I next time, but I was delighted that Mould (re)introduced me to a couple Hüsker Dü gems I'd long since forgetten: "Could You Be the One?" and "In a Free Land."

Perhaps one day Bob Mould will truly decide it's time for him to slow down. Even that won't be a tragedy, as his career can already be called legendary and his songwriting craft shines even more in a solo setting.

But if you love loud 'n fast rock 'n roll and have never seen Mould and his companions at full speed, you definitely should while you still can.

At 55, he remains--in my own words--a tour de force of nature.

Though there are a lot of rock artists I love, and love to see live again and again, Bob Mould stands as one I consider singular.

There is no one else quite like him, or who delivers shows with such sheer horsepower.

So here's hoping--to quote one of his very best songs, Sugar's "If I Can't Change Your Mind," which thrilled on Friday--he'll "stay that way until."


Lemmy said...

Three of your four desired oldies (minus only "Chartered Trips") were given a workout during his New Year's Eve '14/'15 gig at Metro -- a marathon two-hour, 33-song set!

This past Friday's show was nearly as good, though I too wish he'd played more new songs, some which he'd been playing earlier in the tour ("Lucifer," "Black Confetti," "Daddy's Favorite") but dropped for some reason right before the Metro gig.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I like what you have to say. It's just that the sentences are cumbersome. Please make it easier for readers to follow and comprehend, won't you? Also, the song is "In A Free Land". Thank you.