Bob Mould at First Avenue, 9/15/12

Bob Mould at First Avenue, 9/15/12
Photo by Erik Hess

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Bob Mould with All Eyes West
First Avenue, Minneapolis
September 15, 2012

There was a moment at the end of Bob Mould's show at First Avenue on Saturday night where the legendary songwriter with enduring local ties took a brief moment to soak in the rousing ovation from the crowd. Bob took it all in like it was like a breath of fresh air, before he affectionately pounded his chest over his heart as he left the stage.

It was a quick, subtle response to all of the love shown to him by not only the sold-out Mainroom audience on this evening, but also the continued support the Twin Cities has given him over the years as well. It was a genuine, touching gesture from a man who just spent the last 80 minutes absolutely laying waste to the club with a bristling, urgent set filled with classic Sugar songs, raucous new material, and early Hüsker Dü anthems.

The set began with Mould and his cracking backing band of bassist Jason Narducy (Verbow) and drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk) tearing through Sugar's celebrated album Copper Blue in its entirety. Other than taking a short moment at the start of the set to let the massive ovation that greeted them die down, the band didn't waste a second during their 40-minute run through of the album, tearing breathlessly from one polished and powerful track to the next.

Bob Mould at First Avenue, 9/15/12
Photo by Erik Hess

The younger guys gave Mould's classic material a vibrant intensity while also modernizing the pulse of the tracks. After a hard-charging "The Act We Act" got things going, a raw and fiery version of "A Good Idea" quickly followed, with the band bounding around the legendary First Ave stage like they were much younger men, obviously energized by the occasion. And while anytime a band goes through one of their albums from start to finish you remove the thrill of not knowing what is coming next, the real surprises would eventually come later on in the night.

"Helpless" and "Hoover Dam," as good of a one-two rock 'n roll punch as you will find on any album from the '90s, were anthemic as always, with Bob in fine voice and assisted capably by Narducy on backing vocals. If anything, these songs were charged with a newfound insistence and spirit not only by Jason and Jon, but by Bob himself, who really seemed to relish dusting off these old numbers for his fans.

Bob Mould at First Avenue, 9/15/12
Photo by Erik Hess
Bob Mould at First Avenue, 9/15/12
Photo by Erik Hess

The second half of the record went by in a blur, as "If I Can't Change Your Mind," "Fortune Teller" and "Man On The Moon" all were explosive and full of a restless energy that hasn't been quelled by the years. And it certainly was a treat knowing that the night wasn't going to end after "Man On The Moon," and we were going to hear another powerful set of songs from Mould and the boys.


During the transition, Bob took a moment to finally speak with the passionate crowd for the first time in the set: "How you doing Minneapolis and St. Paul? It's good to be back at First Avenue. Glad you could all make it for our flashback Saturday. This new P.A. kicks ass, what else has been going on? How are the Twins doing? (Boos from the crowd and laughter from Bob). Bachmann? (Even more boos and laughter). Silver Age?" And with that, Mould was not only done talking to the crowd for the night, he was ready to lay his boisterous new Silver Age material on us, as they charged headfirst into riotous versions of "Star Machine" and current single "The Descent" which spiritedly started the second half of the set.

Bob Mould at First Avenue, 9/15/12
Photo by Erik Hess

Mould fit in a thunderous version of the Body Of Song track "Circles" in between the rambunctious new tracks "Round the City Square" and "Siver Age," but then it was time for Bob to dig deep into his incomparable back catalog to finish off the night. First up was a bouncy take on New Day Rising's "I Apologize," then it was a blistering, expansive run though of the Zen Arcade nugget "Chartered Trips," before the main set ended with a feisty version of the dynamic new song "Keep Believing," which fit in perfectly alongside the Hüsker classics.

After about a 10-second break for the encore, the band were back and the crowd was roaring their approval, never wanting this special evening to come to an end. And Mould must have clearly felt that connection as well, and rewarded his longtime fans with a classics-filled encore featuring a rowdy version of Zen Arcade's "Something I Learned Today," and the biggest surprised of the night, a storming rendition of "In A Free Land," Hüsker Dü's second single ever, which triumphantly and tempestuously closed out the set. The Twin Cities will always love Bob Mould (and hopefully he'll always love us right back), but on Saturday night at First Avenue the tireless and talented musician gave us plenty of reasons to love him just a little bit more.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: As much as I enjoy the raw fury of Hüsker Dü, Sugar has always been my favorite part of Bob Mould's catalog, and Copper Blue stands as the band's crowning musical achievement. It was a real treat to hear these songs played live again after so many years.

The Crowd: Packed with adoring Bob Mould fans both young and old.

Overheard In A Long Line In The Bathroom: "You mean the show was so good that none of us took a break to take a piss?"

Random Notebook Dump: Openers All Eyes West from Chicago delivered a solid opening set filled with energetic songs from their strong self-titled debut. They have a bit of a Foo Fighters sound to them, both musically and vocally, which I'm sure caught Mould's ear in a good way.


The Act We Act

A Good Idea



Hoover Dam

The Slim

If I Can't Change Your Mind

Fortune Teller


Man On The Moon (End of Copper Blue set)

Star Machine

The Descent

Round The City Square


Silver Age

I Apologize

Chartered Trips

Keep Believing

Something I Learned Today (Encore)

In A Free Land (Encore)

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