Minneapolis’ answer to Simon Hall (!) tonight; the legend that is Bob Mould! As punctually prolific as he is prodigiously talented, Bob has kept up his “even number year” album output of late by knocking out another blast of sheet metal popcore, aligned with brain-hugging melody, in 2016’s “Patch The Sky”. Whilst possibly lacking anything as gloriously immediate as “I Don’t Know You Anymore”, the standout track from 2014’s “Beauty And Ruin”, it’s still a worthy addition to a supreme body of work stretching from his formative 80’s Husker Du days, through the definitive 90’s “power trio” Sugar via the magnificently confessional “Workbook” (one of my Top Ten albums of All Time. Yup, All Time…!), into late 90’s and 00’s solo material where guitars ceded to electronica, then to his current rush of releases harking back to that simple collision of guitar overload and soaring melody. And, after having the good fortune to meet the Great Man on his last time out and promising that if he keeps touring, I’ll keep a’coming, tonight was a must!
On my own for the journey – an early one, following an announcement that doors were brought forward to 6.30 – as I drove into a colourful sunset as pink turned to blue (yes, I know that’s not one of Bob’s, but still…!). Parked up in Rupert Street NCP and found this new venue easily for just before 8. The Dreamboys were on in the other room and I was nearly ushered there by a bouncer (!) but made my way into this large-ish new venue, all chrome and disco lighting – very shiny! Ran into Devizes gig buddy Alfie and then met up with my Bristol-domiciled friend Thom, and we chatted down the front before openers Thought Forms, on at 8. I was expecting a shoegazey lot, given they’d appropriated their name from an early Lush song, and the shimmering guitar of their opener, leading into a moody and stompy off kilter drum-propelled Galaxie 500-alike, underlined this. However they then incorporated elements of early 80’s poppy Goth into their work, with growling reverb and textural, haunting effects making me reach for the Ghost Dance and Indians In Moscow comparisons! Ethereal, moody and better when the female guitarist took lead vocals, they were an interesting opener with a particularly accomplished sticksman, albeit heavily mood over substance and tuneage at this point.
A quick bog trip (funny how gig bogs are run down, even in new venues!) before taking our places on the barriers at the front for the prompt arrival of Bob and rhythm section cohorts Jason Narducy (bass) and Jon Wurster (drums). Ambling nonchalantly on, prompt at 8.30, Bob greeted the enthusiastic crowd with, “hey hey, what’s going on?” and an uncharacteristic big grin across his snowy bearded features. This actually set the tone quite appropriately for the set, as right from the off this was a party, a celebration of the awesome, all-encompassing power of rock’n’roll. The opening salvo underlined this, delving into his proto-popcore Husker Du days with “Flip Your Wig”, “Hate Paper Doll” and a blistering “I Apologise” rampaging by in short order, before Sugar’s “A Good Idea” and the magnificent “Changes” followed suit. What. A. START!
Incredibly, this relentless and rampaging pace was maintained, a sprinkling of more recent numbers standing up well to the classics, with “I Don’t Know You Anymore” as thrillingly catchy as anything from Bob’s canon of work, and current CD opener “Voices In My Head” a more considered strumalong, recalling the stripped-back confessional of those “Workbook” days. That aside, the pace was remorseless; raw, ragged and elemental, tonight a growling, prowling Bob and the band delivered as exciting and gut-wrenchingly thrilling a set as ever, keeping hits raining down with the merciless and steely-eyed determination of a prize-fighter with his opponent well and truly on the ropes. “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” was particularly brilliant, the sheer euphoria of the song’s hook shining through, and my set highlight amongst many. No wonder, as Bob introduced the band a couple of numbers later, he remarked, “we’re having fun up here!”
A rarely played and moody “Come Around” from Sugar’s underrated “Beaster”, and the lengthy and epic primal howl of set closer “Black Confetti” were other notables as the set flew by. The 2 encores of the heart-crackingly sombre “Hardly Getting Over It”, juxtaposed with one final soaring singalong to “Makes No Sense At All”, then closed out a brilliantly sweaty and extraordinarily loud 1 hour 20 minutes of prime rock, Bob taking centre stage at the climax for a lengthy ovation. That’s how to do it, sir! We grabbed our breath as a roadie handed me Bob’s list, recovering from the ringing in our ears before going our separate ways for an early home time. Early, but amazing as ever from the enduring, prolific legend that is Bob Mould!