Review: Bob Mould lets music do talking at The Independent

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SAN FRANCISCO — Banter isn’t really Bob Mould’s thing.

He often says little between songs, preferring instead to let the performance do the talking.

Even when he walked off stage at the end of Saturday night’s gig at The Independent in San Francisco, there was no bowing, grand gestures or speeches. He stood and basked in the applause for a minute, then exited stage right.

He didn’t need to say much. Saturday’s sold-out gig was further proof of the late-career renaissance for the man known from 1980’s punk and alternative rock band Hüsker Dü as well as 1990’s power pop and alt rock group Sugar and a solo career stretching more than 25 years.

Saturday’s show felt like something of a career anthology for Mould as he blended a sizable portion from his 12th and latest solo effort, Patch the Sky, while also reaching all the way back to the earliest days of Hüsker Dü with the group’s 1982 single “In a Free Land.”

It makes sense for Mould to balance the modern with the past. Since hitting the road in 2012 to toast to 20 years of Sugar’s Copper Blue, the rocker has seen a resurgence, hitting Billboard’s top 100 with each of his past three albums while penning songs that blend a propulsive, poppy alt-rock heaviness with Mould’s ear for a catchy melody.

Actually, that gift is nothing new for Mould, who’s been blending the aggressive with the melodic since Hüsker Dü, so it makes sense to sit the material next to each other in the same setlist.

Mould set the tone early Saturday, powering into the night with Sugar’s “A Good Idea,” sweeping his left leg back and stomping confidently across The Independent stage. Mould and his band – bassist Jason Narducy and The Mountain Goats drummer Jon Wurster – were in lock step, moving briskly from one song to the next without much banter.

While the first half of Saturday’s set leaned toward Sugar work and newer material, Mould spent the backside of the 90-minute set blending Hüsker Dü gems with Patch the Sky.

“Black Confetti” was the best of the new stuff, with Mould moving to center stage to meet Narducy and showing off his guitar work.

As the clock neared midnight, Mould took the crowd back to the 1980s, finishing with a scorching stretch of songs from his Hüsker Dü days: “Hardly Getting Over It” — seemingly the closest thing to a breather in the torrid, 90-minute set — “Celebrated Summer,” “Love Is All Around” and “Makes No Sense at All.”

Think “Love Is All Around,” the theme from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” can’t rock hard? Think again. Mould and company found the same fuzzy, in-your-face footing for it as it did the Patch material and the closer, Hüsker Dü classic “Makes No Sense at All.”

Even if Mould didn’t say much, he didn’t need to. His performance did the talking for him.

Mould plays a second show May 15 at The Independent. Tickets are still available. For more information, visit theindependentsf.com.

The show opened with a solid 30 minutes from Wisconsin punk and garage rocker Mike Krol, an entertaining presence who bounced off of monitors, jumped off of the kick drum and walked into the crowd while brandishing a tambourine, wearing a cape and sporting a black superhero eye mask.

Setlist
A Good Idea
Changes
The End of Things
The Descent
I Don’t Know You Anymore
You Say You
Voices in My Head
Hold On
If I Can’t Change Your Mind
Hey Mr. Grey
Hoover Dam
Tomorrow Morning
Losing Time
Chartered Trips
Daddy’s Favorite
Black Confetti
Come Around
In a Free Land
Hardly Getting Over It
Celebrated Summer

Encore
Love Is All Around
Makes No Sense at All

 

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