Live review: Bob Mould @ the Bluebird Theater - Reverb

Live review: Bob Mould @ the Bluebird Theater

Despite his legendary pedigree alt-rock and indie-rock godfather Bob Mould's set at the Bluebird on Saturday felt anticlimactic. Photo by Michael McGrath.

Despite his legendary pedigree alt-rock and indie-rock godfather Bob Mould's set at the Bluebird on Saturday felt anticlimactic. Photo by Michael McGrath.

Seeing Bob Mould’s name on the marquee at the Bluebird Theater in Denver isn’t exactly like seeing Jimmy Hoffa’s. After all, he has released two albums in the past two years, and is reportedly working on a memoir with well-regarded music writer Michael Azerrad.

But for some reason, it seems that way.

Saturday night, Mould played a quick, low-key set for a sold-out crowd that I imagine consisted entirely of fans who have been acolytes of his since at least the days of Sugar (the early ’90s power-pop band that yielded his most popular songs) or perhaps Hüsker Dü (which, like genre pioneers such as the Velvet Underground or Big Star, spawned more bands than memorable songs).

View a full photo gallery of this concert.

“Let’s just get right to it,” Mould said as he took the stage alone, strapping on a slim-body acoustic/electric guitar. “I’ll talk later.”

He didn’t, but I doubt anyone lusted for the conversation. Mould slashed right into “Wishing Well,” the first non-instrumental from his first solo album, “Workbook,” peppering the song with as many “oh yeah’s” and “whoa’s” as actual lyrical words, giving it the sensation of a bloodletting. From there he went into “Hear Me Calling,” “Hoover Dam” and “See a Little Light,” each from his post-Hüsker Dü “high period.” It was the sort of crowd that cheered for a song before its first chord, during the pre-song tunings that foreshadowed the selection.

Most of the set stuck to songs of this ilk, which he played with his trademark generalized fury and vengeance — his voice was strong and hellacious as ever. He primarily dodged songs from “Modulate” and “Body of Song,” whose alien electronic infusions never caught on with his crowd. Though Mould is openly gay and writes songs with varying degrees of relationship content, sexuality seems beside the point: he deals with the anxiety and the wreckage.

Thematically, Bob Mould is best heard touring alone. But so much of Mould’s appeal on recordings is based on a propulsive wall of sound that’s best achieved by a full band. From an economic standpoint, it’s natural that Mould would tour alone, especially since his commercial appeal has plateaued and the costs of a touring band would outstrip any marginal revenue generated. ($20 was an outstanding ticket price to pay for such a legend, though: the man in the seat beside me said, “I would have paid $100.”)

But the spectacle of Mould alone on stage, grinding out songs that have long since ripened, felt a bit sad — as did the fact that his main set lasted just over an hour. After the set’s close of “Makes No Sense At All,” a Hüsker Dü classic, one did not feel jubilance, enlightenment, or even exhaustion. There was only the feeling that it was the end.

View a full photo gallery of this concert.

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Jeremy Simon is a Lafayette freelance writer and regular contributor to Reverb.

Michael McGrath is a Denver area photographer. His work is available at Twist and Shout Records. Visit his website.

  • Darren

    Mould went too fast from song to song, but he was good. The guy who opened was really good, and he talked to the crowd more that Mould. What was his name?

  • chrisboyd

    I think this quote – “spawned more bands than memorable songs” says everything you need to know about what direction Jeremy Simon is taking this review. I won't argue with you that this was some kind of cathartic show. He was good, it was fun. But you obviously don't think he has the tunes so how are you going to love this show in any world? But you didn't dig it and that's fine. The problem here though, what ruins any cred you have, what turns you from a possibly knowledgeable music fan to a tin eared suck fish who really should just stick to your old REO and Styx records is this: “like genre pioneers such as the Velvet Underground or Big Star, spawned more bands than memorable songs” WTF!? September Girls, Waiting for the Man, 13, Thank You Friends, Jesus, Foggy Notion and at least 50 more songs that are as memorable as any rock music. Put down the laptop, go to the record store and shut the hell up until you get an education.Hoobs NM was amazing as an opener for Mr Mould btw.

  • Michael Behrenhausen

    “…Hüsker Dü (which, like genre pioneers such as the Velvet Underground or Big Star, spawned more bands than memorable songs)…”This is an absolutely ludicrous statement. Bob Mould and Grant Hart were the Lennon/McCartney of 80s punk/college rock. Have you ever heard the albums “Zen Arcade,” “New Day Rising,” “Flip Your Wig,” “Candy Apple Grey,” and “Warehouse?” All of these albums followed the band's more blistering hardcore efforts and were each FILLED with memorable songs that brought melody and pop sensibility to the genre. That's in addition to their continued influence.Whether today, Mould is worth seeing live or not, still will not affect the songcraft of these albums. -MB

  • KD

    I walked into the Bluebird expecting to see the Bob Mould Band, so I was initially discombobulated – it was going to be the confessional acoustic Bob rather than the raging adrenalized Bob. Not a bad thing, but not a head-spinning, eye-brow shearing experience.But Bob is his songs, and his songs are Bob – inextricably intertwined. The man has a distinct style and body of work that – I must disagree with the reviewer – has not gone stale. Anxiety and wreckage galore, and all told in a straightforward and honest fashion. That's what made the show for me – pretty riveting in his delivery that mixes equal parts theatricality and intensity.What was not mentioned is that Bob played at least four songs from his new album, and all were well received. Again, not going stale…

  • jeremysimon

    As the reviewer, let me clarify my use of the word 'memorable,' which has been interpreted as 'unworthy' by a few commenters. I'm actually a fan not only of Mould but also of Big Star, and yeah, of course there are great songs by each that are remembered well by faithful fans in selected musical niches. Most members of the general musical listening public would be hard-pressed to name or hum a single Husker Du or Big Star song–however there are many bands inspired by the above who the average Joe *could* name. That's what I meant; I can see how it would be misconstrued, but both Husker Du and Big Star have a niche following–which is why Mould does not play larger venues for more money. He did indeed play some songs from the new album (which, sonically, are closer to his earlier work than to Body of Song/Modulate–I never said he didn't play *any* new songs but no reviewer names every song played). I don't feel they will ever be heard by anyone outside his already-converted listener base. Fault for this is less with Bob himself than with the musical-delivery system we're confronted with these days. But he performs accordingly–only for the converted, and the same uncompromising attitude that has made him a revelation in the 80s and 90s has hit a ceiling, because I'm not feeling it. I'm not saying his talent is diminished, and I'll be listening to those classics from Workbook and Copper Blue until I die. But the spectacle left me a bit sad: the close of my review was more about the feeling I had than any objective measure of Bob's talent. I'm glad others felt otherwise about the show, I'm simply conveying how it came across to me. I actually don't mind Styx one bit (REO's another matter), but equating me to a tin-eared reviewer simply because you happened to like the show more than me smacks of the same lack of nuance of which you accuse me.–Jeremy Simon

  • Dean R

    Jeremy – nice reply. This was a one-off show for Bob. But I wanted to say that, from what I know, heard and read, Bob is probably one of the hardest working DIY musicians around. He is relevant, but not with the guitar as much. Check out his following with the indie-dance scene called Blowoff. You may know about it, but it is coast to coast now. Blowoff is relatively much less-expensive to set up (just him and Richard Morel) and has a rather high return rate. He also has a autobiography coming out (wierd he did not try to promote that). I dont think you have to worry about him being washed up anytime soon. He knows his audience and markets himself appropriately. It is just wierd for folks who idolize Sugar and Huskers accept Bob as the DJ. But it works for him. Personally, I take him with a guitar.