Bob Mould at Underground Arts, Philadelphia, PA, April 26, 2016 | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Bob Mould

Bob Mould at Underground Arts, Philadelphia, PA, April 26, 2016, April 26th, 2016

May 02, 2016 Bob Mould Photography by Scott Fritchman Bookmark and Share

In 1998, Bob Mould was at a turning point. Feeling exhausted and suffering hearing loss from years of high volume concerts with Hüsker Dü and Sugar, Mould decided to give up touring with an electric band. His solo album from that year, The Last Dog and Pony Show, was to be the last album he’d support on the road with electric guitar.

Of course, in subsequent decades, following forays into electronic music and DJ gigs, Mould has partially gone back on his word, supporting the 25th anniversary of his seminal 1989 album Workbook a couple years back and playing fairly regular solo and band shows both prior and since. But despite all the times he’s strapped on an electric guitar since 1998, he’s never done it quite like this. On Tuesday night in Philadelphia, Bob Mould, in power trio arrangement with Jason Narducy on bass and Jon Wurster on drums, brought the fire and the fury like we haven’t seen since his days in Hüsker Dü.

Mould’s recent solo album, Patch The Sky, has been heralded as his darkest (and loudest) in years, supported by the vitriolic opening track “Voices In My Head.” Add to this the fact that Philadelphia’s Underground Arts resembles more a DIY punk rock space than any typical rock and roll club, and the result was a recipe for a noisy Tuesday night.

A cavernous basement space down a dimly lit flight of stairs, Underground Arts packed the willing in like sardines. Sightlines to the stage were obstructed by giant floor-to-ceiling columns, but it didn’t seem to matter to those in attendance on this night.

After a solo opening set by Ted Leo, Mould, Narducy, and Wurster took the stage at approximately 9:15, firing full force into “A Good Idea” and “Changes” from Sugar’s 1992 debut Copper Blue. After this raucous opening, Mould and his compatriots segued into six tracks that spanned his last three albums, finishing with the aforementioned “Voices In My Head” and the über-melodic “Hold On” from Patch the Sky.

The middle of the show found Mould bouncing back and forth between newer tracks and earlier work from Sugar and Workbook. But the intensity never let up. Songs bled into one another like The Ramones without the count-offs, Mould blazing through his catalog with a fury that he hasn’t shown in years. Even the more pop-rock tracks (Sugar’s “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” and Workbook‘s “See A Little Light” among them) were given the hardcore treatment, Mould taking a buzzsaw to the hooks, rendering the melodies a mere backdrop to the instrumental wildfire.

But after that is when things truly got special for the long-time devotees in the audience. Of the final 13 songs of the evening, 8 of them were Hüsker Dü cuts, and a ninth was “Come Around” from Sugar’s blisteringly heavy 1993 EP Beaster. The Hüsker tracks spanned that band’s career, from “In a Free Land,” the band’s second single, released in 1982; to “Chartered Trips” and “Something I Learned Today” off 1984’s Zen Arcade; “Hate Paper Doll” from 1985’s Flip Your Wig; “I Apologize” and “Celebrated Summer” from the same year’s New Day Rising; and “Hardly Getting Over It” from 1986’s Candy Apple Grey. Ironically, for all the volume and intensity of the evening, it wasn’t until “Hardly Getting Over It”-if you were counting, the 21st song of the evening-that the tempo hastened and the all-out assault abated.

It was obvious on this night that Mould was making a statement. Although Hüsker Dü tracks factored heavily into the set, newer cuts like Patch the Sky‘s “Lucifer and God” and “Losing Time,” and “The War” and “Hey Mr. Grey” from 2014’s Beauty & Ruin fit in perfectly.

And it wasn’t as if Mould presented himself as the angry frontman; the perpetual smile on his face belied the aggression of the instrumental attack. The perpetual fog on his glasses from the heat, sweat, and exertion proved his intensity. Bounding the stage like the frontman he’s always been, Mould was in his element. There were no acoustic guitars, no ballads, and seemingly little worry about ear ringing, from him or any of the patrons on this night. It was one for the ages-Mould’s electric return, as it should be, fast and furious as ever.



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