Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bob Mould Live in Sydney 9/3/13 & 10/3/13

So it was a big night for music in Sydney last Saturday night with likes of Nick  Cave, the Stone Roses, Jon Spencer as well as many others playing in town. However, for me, there was only one show that had to be attended and that was Bob Mould's first Sydney show with a full band. Anyone who reads this blog knows how biased I am about Bob but this was truly a special concert. It was that perfect alchemy of a band in top form, the perfect setlist and an adoring crowd that turned the evening into one big, joyous party.

As soon as the first chords of The Act We Act echoed through the Factory, the entire audience was smitten. From where I was standing, there seemed to be a level of disbelief that the album that so many of us adore was being played live, in front of our eyes, like right now! Everyone was grinning from ear to ear and as each song rolled on the crowd got rowdier and rowdier. It all burst forth on Hoover Dam with the crowd singing and dancing in mild ecstasy. Sure, we're all older, the mosh was a little grey haired (Silver Mosh?) and the dancing was a bit embarrassing but the band fed off the crowd's energy and were having a ball.

Anyone looking for the introspective nuances of his solo career were in for a disappointment. This was a big hearted rock show, no banter, no pauses, just slab after slab of pure rock action. Once the first five tracks of Copper Blue were played, the band tore through songs from Silver Age which were no less exciting. It seems this is an album that has been embraced as lot's of people were singing along and it felt like a perfect fit to the Copper Blue stuff. I have to admit as Steam of Hercules descended into a MBV-esque psychedelic jam and then segued into Come Around, the smallest bit of wee escaped my body in excitement. Probably for the best they didn't play any other Beaster tracks, it could have got messy.

Bob was in an ebullient mood, obviously having a great time and Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster are the perfect cohorts for Bob's non-stop attack playing with style and perfect understanding of the material (seeing Wurster makes me wish for an Australian Superchunk tour which I'm afraid will never happen). By the time the Hüsker songs rolled around, the whole theatre was going crazy and it really felt like a special night. For most of us who have lived with Bob's catalogue, this felt like 20-30 years of build up released in ecstatic revelry. I Apologize was fierce and fun leading into a fuzzed out jam of Chartered Trips. The encores just solidified the amazing feeling of the night and while I know this is a pretty standard Bob setlist, it was perfect.

It all ended with Bob standing in the middle of the stage saying thanks and he seemed quite moved by the ovation he received. For so many of us, music has been life and death, a thing that has kept us alive and lightened our load, the soundtrack to our biggest and smallest moments. All of that seemed to be captured at the Factory on Saturday night as we left with big smiles, ears ringing and our love of music validated so emphatically.

Factory Theatre Setlist:
The Act We Act
A Good Idea
Hoover Dam
Star Machine
The Descent
Round the City Square
Steam of Hercules
Come Around
Your Favorite Thing
Could You Be The One?
I Apologize
Chartered Trips
Keep Believing

If I Can't Change Your Mind
Celebrated Summer
Flip Your Wig
Hate Paper Doll
Makes No Sense At All


All Sunday, I grappled with whether I should go to the second show in Sydney. Given how amazing the Factory show was, how could the second show live up to it? Sadly, it couldn't and it wasn't the band's fault. While there was a lot of people having fun and dancing at the front, the Annandale was half full with a lot of big guys standing around with their arms folded. I'm not sure what that was about but there was a certain sense that the crowd was sucking the energy out of the room - the  opposite of the night before. The band rocked hard though and while the setlist was largely the same, we got Divide and Conquer, In a Free Land and a particularly punishing Something I Learnt Today (amazing!). Bob seemed to be having a good time, joking around with the band and going into full shred mode on some solos but it didn't have the spark of the previous evening. I don't regret going as this might be the last chance I get to see him and I will cherish these couple of hours I spent this weekend watching my hero get the kudos he deserves. The shows felt like a victory lap and anyone who knows Bob's story knows that lap has been hard fought for and well deserved - viva la Bob.