A remarkable one to start off this new 2006 gig year. Rachel opted out, but Tim and Penny were up for this solo performance from one of the great guitar icons.
Parked in a spot immediately outside the venue (shoo-perb!) and had a drink in the pub next door, before hitting the venue just after 9. Support Si Connelly was on, a young chap who, judging by his plaintive warble and vocal gymnastics, had been listening to far too much Jeff Buckley. Nevertheless, a good set from a fine voice occasionally let down by his material. He was "very very" grateful for the applause, anyway! Bob himself wandered into the venue as we were watching Si, then we wandered down the front as Bob set up.
"Let's get this thing started, it's a school night after all," announced Bob, heralding his set at 9.30. "Wishing Well" from 1989's classic "Workbook" was first up, a passionate, intense opener, with Bob's low growl of a voice strident and sure. This was the template for the set - a retrospective of Husker Du/ Sugar/ solo material, played with a being-broken-in semi-acoustic, and a primal howl full of emotion. Nevertheless, it wasn't all heavy going, as Bob, looking slim and obviously content with life (for once!), told a funny story about being caught up in customs without his work permit, before the customs supervisor admitted to being a fan and letting him through. This story also featured a self-aimed joke about Big Gay Bob's sexual preference, so obviously he's in a happy place!
And so were we - right down the front, we had a perfect view of this intense and supreme demonstration of the singer-guitarist's art. A brilliant "See A Little Light" was my highlight, and "Hardly Getting Over It" a heart-cracking, drawn-out elegy, before the new guitar was abandoned in favour of a late full-on electric assault from the trusty blue Fender Strat. Husker Du classics "I Apologise" and "Celebrated Summer", and the encore triad of "Egooverride" and the brilliantly catchy "If I Could Change Your Mind" and "Makes No Sense at All" rounded off the set noisily and thrillingly.
Bob himself swiped his set-list and put it back in his bag, so I just (ha!) contented myself with shaking the great man's hand, telling him I'd seen him 17 years ago on the "Workbook" tour, and he was just as good tonight as then, for which he humbly thanked me. A great moment, to end a great night.