The former Hüsker Dü and Sugar frontman provides an unrelentingly loud, visceral blast through his back catalogue
Bob Mould does not fuck about. He arrives on stage at Newcastle’s Riverside dressed in all black, holding the single guitar he will wield ferociously throughout tonight’s show. With minimal fuss, he then proceeds to blast through the songs of his former groups Hüsker Dü and Sugar, not to mention the several solo albums he’s also released over the years. The show is unrelentingly loud, the lights rarely change and the intensity never drops over the course of the 90 minutes.
Before we get to detailing the visceral guitar barrage that follows, special mention should be made of support act Katie Malco. Her set comes from the opposite end of the guitar spectrum as she plays a set of engaging, delicately presented tracks from latest album Failures, not to mention a special version of Cloudbusting by Kate Bush (it’s worth noting that it isn’t a simple concession to the recent popularity of another one of Bush’s songs, Malco having first recorded a version a few years back).
Mould soon takes to the stage, opening with The War from his 2014 album Beauty & War. He soon raids his extensive back catalogue, playing an explosive Hüsker Dü double volley of Flip Your Wig and I Apologize. They show how Mould is adept at preserving the strong melodies of these songs amid the surrounding maelstrom.
Next, he dips into the work of his other band, Sugar. It may be without the elevating synths and uplifted production of the original but Hoover Dam still sounds imperious and hits home hard. It’s an example of how tonight he strips his songs down to the barest of components but simultaneously ramps them by sheer force of will. Later, he plays If I Can’t Change Your Mind, also from the acclaimed Copper Blue. They’re the only two Sugar songs played tonight. Ideally it would have been good to hear more.
He continues to bang songs out, barely pausing for breath as he runs them into each other. See A Little Light and Sinners And Their Repentances, the two tracks he plays from his 1989 solo album Workbook, bring to mind how on record his sound at that time had a certain closeness to early R.E.M. Tonight’s versions are far more raucous but the former still has a bounding melodicism. Forecast of Rain from latest album Blue Hearts comes with added bite and Celebrated Summer provides a moment where he momentarily eases his foot off the pedal. The later stages of the set see more in the way of Hüsker Dü favourites, with Never Talking To You Again, Something I Learned Today and Makes No Sense At All going down a storm.
The make up of tonight’s show (namely Mould playing alone with only an electric guitar) does mean there are certain limitations in terms of sound and dynamic but the close to sell out Newcastle crowd of long term fans don’t seem to care. Tonight was a searing reminder of his continued songwriting prowess, his irrepressible energy and his ability to convey his music with a brusque, uncomplicated power.