Saturday, October 01, 2005

 

The Wall Of Sound

I've been a Bob Mould fan ever since, oh, the fall of '94 or so. Given that he doesn't tour very often, I'd not had the chance to see him live. That is, until last night at the Metro in Chicago.

The opening band, Uncut, was billed as a shoegazer outfit in the vein of My Bloody Valentine. While they've got a ways to go before topping the layered, feedback-driven beauty of "Loveless", they're damn good for a young band. Most impressive was how close they came to losing control of "Understanding The New Violence", a slow-burn sort of track that they just about spun into the wall during the second run through the chorus.

During Uncut's set, Mould stepped out onto the floor about 8 feet to my left to catch a few songs and punch out something on his Treo. I resisted to urge to bother him, a move that was validated after watching his reaction when a few others approached.

Taking a step back to the drive to the venue, I had mentioned to Oberon that it'd be sweet to hear Mould do the first five tracks from Sugar's Copper Blue, since on this tour, he's said to be doing not just his solo stuff but songs from his previous bands (the other being Husker Du, of course). Starting with "The Act We Act" and wrapping up with "Hoover Dam", I honestly feel that it's about the best 16 minutes or so in the last 20 years of rock music, but it was more of a pipe dream than anything else.

Well, I didn't quite get what I wanted, but it was much better than I honestly could have hoped for. Mould hit the stage and proceeded to rip out "The Act We Act", "A Good Idea", and "Changes", thus satisfying 3/5ths of my list right off the bat. And as much as I like the faster tempo and through-the-roof intensity that shows up on Mould's live albums, it's nothing like hearing it in person.

After that, he drove right through his new album Body Of Song, hitting "Circles", "Paralyzed", "I Am Vision (I Am Sound)", "Underneath Days", and "High Fidelity" (a song that benefited greatly from the use of keyboards). "Best Thing" was also worked in at some later point, and a faster-paced run through "Bleeding Heart The Prize" was worked into the first encore. The new material comes off very well in a live setting, undoubtably due to the fact that it's totally driven by Mould's guitar playing.

I was then totally surprised to hear him go into Husker Du's "Hardly Getting Over It", since it was such a change of pace from the start of the set. After that was Husker's "I Apologize", and then an absolutely frantic run through "Chartered Trips" that had me wondering what song was being played until a good minute into it. The live-in-the-studio version on Zen Arcade is already a noisey exploration of the speed of sound; the speed achieved on this particular journey left it sounding less like music and more like the launch of a large rocket. "Could You Be The One?", "Makes No Sense At All", and an amazing take on "Celebrated Summer" rounded-out the Husker Du material.

"Egoveride" and "See A Little Light" were the only songs from his older solo records. They're not two of the songs from that body of work that I'd put at the top of my list, but they sounded good.

"Hoover Dam" and "Helpless" came around later, completing the last 40% of my Copper Blue wish list. The band also did "If I Can't Change Your Mind", and ended the show with "Man On The Moon" - a song I appreciate much more now that I did before.

After the show, Mould hung around the exits and was happy to talk with the departing audience and sign autographs. Amazing - I've never seen an artist do that before, not a single time in over 100 concerts that I've attended in the last decade. On-stage, he's a alt-rock god, but when he's not playing, it's clear that he's trying very hard just to be a regular guy. Too cool. I mumbled "thanks" to him and got a signiature on my ticket stub. Oberon at least had the balls to shake his hand.

Was this the best concert I've ever seen? At this point, I'd have to say so.

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