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.



  1. Sounds great- and sounds like you had much the same experience as did I. I don't know if you've seen either Bob solo, Bob with other incarnations of the "Bob Mould Band", Surgar or Husker Du- I've seen each, and this was the happiest, and most giving I've ever seen him. I really would say that this is the best way to see him- Solo Acoustic is good too- but I swear I enjoyed this show more than I did Sugar or Husker Du.

  2. It was a great show and it felt like a really generous, joyous time for him - he was beaming the entire show. Bob's only toured Australia twice before, solo acoustic in 1991 and with Modulate in about 2002. I missed the '91 show but it was a live set from Melbourne that I taped off the radio that really sealed my fandom. I saw him twice with Modulate (half acoustic/half electric with drum machines) and it was actually pretty good but the shows on the weekend were a million miles from that. So glad that I've finally seen him with a band. After years of listening to live albums and bootlegs, it fully lived up to and exceeded my expectations. Too bad the second show was a bit of a let down but we all know the dynamics of the right room, right crowd, right artist and the magic that can create. My hearing is shot though, ears are still ringing. Here's the SMH review:

  3. And there you have it- St Bob saying "This is as good as it gets"- that's my confirmation. You really did see him at his very best. Since you saw that, you might have been let down to see some of the other stuff- I saw Husker Du on the Warehouse tour, and if I didn't like Flip Your Wig, Zen Arcade and New Day Rising so much, that would have been the end of it for me. Then, I saw Sugar in 1993 and 1994, and While the first show was really good, the second was just ok. It wasn't until the Last Dog and Pony show that I started to see him as a decent live performer- but, in light of the solo acoustic show, the Dj set and this show- I realize he needs both a good band behind him, and a good crowd in front of him in order to play properly. So, if you had that- you got it. That's what all the fuss is about....

  4. Hey Jason, this is Mark from Royal Chant....we were on very first that Saturday night at the Factory. Bob Mould was unreal!!! He and the rest of the band were super nice, besides being monster musicians.

    Cheers mate, wasn't sure if you got to catch any of our short set.