Bob Mould delivers intimate performance at the Varsity
Press photo by Noah Kalina
Varsity Theater, March 30
by Jake Mohan
"It's great to be here. This is a great room," Bob Mould told a packed Varsity Theater, already several songs into his nearly 90-minute set. "Have I been here before?" he asked the crowd, feigning middle-aged absent-mindedness. "How long has this place been here? I don't live here anymore. You have to help me."
That was Mould's demeanor throughout the night: affable and humble; aware of his considerable legacy without sagging under its weight; never stopping too long to wax nostalgic or pander. Playing an amplified acoustic guitar, he was accompanied by Jason Narducy, of Verbow, on electric bass. The absence of a drummer was conspicuous and, at least to this reviewer, a bit disappointing. It sounded less like the sort of acoustic configuration hinted at by the show's billing ("An Intimate Evening with Bob Mould") and more like two-thirds of a rock trio rehearsing while waiting for the drummer to show up. The lineup could have benefitted from the muscular playing of Mould's erstwhile drummers Jon Wurster (Superchunk) or Brendan Canty (Fugazi).
The crowd didn't seem to mind, however, and if the songs could have been tighter rhythmically, they were never lacking for passion and immediacy. At several points Mould stomped on his distortion pedal to strafe his arrangements with the sort of sweet noise we associate with Hüsker Dü and Sugar, and Narducy balanced out the sound with his basslines and backing vocals.
Speaking of Hüsker, Mould did take a moment to remark on the night's auspicious milestone: the 30-year anniversary of his first band's first show, at Ron's Randolph Inn in St. Paul (long since shuttered). "You gotta start somewhere," he quipped. With that, he launched into a batch of old songs from his first solo album, the beloved Workbook, then brought us "back to the future," as he put it, closing out the set with several songs from the upcoming Life & Times (Anti-), which will be released next week and was on sale at the merch table. One highlight was the song "I'm Sorry, Baby, But You Can't Stand In My Light Anymore," which Mould introduced as "the best song I've written in forever."
The evening was intimate--despite the rowdy, middle-aged, beer-drinking crowd and the occasional bursts of distortion--mostly for its retrospective, almost wistful quality, punctuated when Mould remarked on Hüsker's thirtieth birthday and Workbook's twentieth, and when he thanked everyone--just before kicking off the encore with Sugar favorite "If I Can't Change Your Mind"--for "hanging in with me during the crazy periods."
No problem, Bob. Now come back real soon, with a full band, and we'll hang in as long as you want.
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