Wednesday, 4 August 2010

387 BOB MOULD, MERCURY REV, Dark Star, Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall, Friday 23 October 1998

Took the afternoon off for a first ever gig in Wolverhampton, on an afternoon forecast to be traffic heavy. They weren't just whistling Dixie; we hit even worse than the expected traffic on the M5 thanks to a 14 car pile-up, and after being totally stationary for an hour, and in slow traffic for a further half hour, we eventually got to Wolverhampton at 7 - 4 1/2 hours after setting off! Following some KFC, we hit the empty venue at 7.40, just before Dark Star hit the stage with an unrepresentative (as it transpired) punky blast opener. I warmed to them as their set became increasingly sinewy and libidinous, rather like a goth version of New FADs. Not too bad at all, as the venue - resembling a smaller and posher Bristol Uni Anson Rooms - filled up.

Mercury Rev, however, were utterly and unexpectedly fabulous! A band I'd dabbled with in the early 90's, and generally found to be too quirky and droney for my tastes, the Rev, now split from their original musical leading light David Baker, have since reinvented themselves as astonishing moody musical auteurs par excellence. This set was music to die for; stunning, shimmering, majestic, haunting and wonderful. I remarked to Clive that not only had we just witnessed one of the Top 5 sets of the year, easily, but I'd also just seen a band who reach the heights that the likes of the Verve and Radiohead can only clumsily grasp at. A totally surprising, but awesome "Tugboat" (yep, the old Galaxie 500 number) as well as "Endlessly", the set opener from the rock critics' new fave LP "Deserter's Songs" (a record I'm going to buy in pretty short order!) were the highlights from a set where, well, there were no lowlights!

I also mentioned to Clive that Bob Mould would really have to go some to top that, and for me, unsurprisingly, he slightly fell short. Kicking in at 9.30 with 3 numbers from the splendid new LP "The Last Dog And Pony Show", Bob and the band ripped into this set with the usual venom, the scuzzy guitar and deep booming voice the highlights of this awesome noise. I initiated an ever increasing moshpit and kicked some ass! However, the sound fell slightly short of brilliant, and Bob delved into 1996's disappointing eponymous "Bob Mould" LP too much for my liking. A superb "Anymore Time Between" was by far and away the best of the set mid-section, bleeding-raw and emotional as it was. However, Bob scaled those heights far too seldom for my liking. Am I being harsh? Maybe... maybe I expected perfection, and I got a fat bloke playing punk rock. However, I still came out of the moshpit sweaty and happy, following a final encore blast through Sugar's "Man On The Moon", during which I swore the old boy flirted with me, from my front centre spot!

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