October 8, 2009
Rock Over Boston | Bob Mould | Paradise
[Photos by Michael Piantigini]
One of the most amazing shows I've ever seen was Bob Mould's stop in Boston on the Black Sheets of Rain tour. That album is arguably his darkest and most chilling - he's working something out on it, and by showtime, he was still working on it. When he took the stage and strummed the opening chords to "Wishing Well..." Well, "strummed" doesn't do it justice, because I don't know if I've experienced three more profound chords. He may as well have punched each one of us in the gut. There was an electricity that was palpable in Citi (as it was known before it became Avalon - and that wasn't a corporate name, by the way) that was exhilarating and draining. I am not kidding when I say the show could have ended right then and we all would have felt like we got our money's worth.
This wasn't that show.
I'll admit that it has been taking me a long time to come to terms with the evolution of Bob Mould. I still don't know if I'm there. I haven't really embraced any of this decade's worth of his albums (though this year's Life and Times is certainly a step in the right direction). The influence of his DJ life on his music of the rock variety has been bumpy; was laughingstock Auto-Tune ever really a good idea? It's on the new record, even, though mercifully toned down compared to the last couple. I'm sure he doesn't care - why should he? He doesn't owe rock music any more than he's already contributed, and I wouldn't expect or want him to keep re-making the same record.
Which is part of what makes the set list for the recent tours, including last night's stop at the Paradise, such a surprise. It's all about giving the people what they want. Who'd a-thunk that, say, The Who would play more songs from their new record last time they came through town than Bob Mould did last night? Only four songs came from the new one, including the great single "I'm Sorry, Baby, But You Can't Stand in My Light Anymore." And what's more, only "Circles," from 2005's Body of Song even came from this decade. Going all the way back to 1984 for the opener, Zen Arcade's "Something I Learned Today" set the pace for the most energetic set from Mould I've seen in years. Material from 1989's Workbook got a particularly strong workout: "Wishing Well" had some snarl though "Poison Years" didn't quite give the chills it once did. Sugar was well-represented by b-side "Needle Hits E," and crowd-faves "Your Favorite Thing" and "Hoover Dam." Ultimately, it was hard to argue with the four-song set closing Husker Du assault.
The difference-maker on this tour is the hardest working man in show business, Jon Wurster. Mould introduced him as "direct from Comedy Central," because 24 hours earlier, he was in New York drumming with the Mountain Goats on the Colbert Report. Between that, his comedy career with Tom Scharpling on WFMU, and all the recent activity of his "regular" gig with Superchunk, it is hard to fathom how he keeps up. You'd never know he did anything else but drum with Bob Mould though, as he clearly is having a blast doing it. He's probably the most fun drummer to watch since Keith Moon, singing along, pulling faces, and just his general enthusiasm. It'll be disappointing if we find out he's on 'roids. His spirit is infectious: Mould was loose and cracking more than a few smiles throughout the set.
As unsure as I am of Mould's recent material, I am just as skeptical of shows like this where the pander level is high. I didn't get into Bob Mould the entertainer. I got into the Bob Mould who gut-punched me. In the end, though, the energy and enthusiasm of a good night like last night gave the songs enough life to remind us where they - and we - came from. - Michael Piantigini
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Bob Mould at the Paradise, Boston, MA 10/7/2009:
1. Something I Learned Today
2. A Good Idea
4. Needle Hits E
5. Your Favorite Thing
6. Life and Times
7. The Breach
8. I'm Sorry, Baby, But You Can't Stand in My Light Anymore
9. Wishing Well
10. See A Little Light
11. Hoover Dam
12. Sinners and Their Repentances
13. Hardly Getting Over It
14. Poison Years
15. I Apologize
16. Chartered Trips
17. Celebrated Summer
18. In A Free Land
20. If I Can't Change Your Mind