Punk rock legend Bob Mould played two back-to-back, sold out shows at the classic Times Square basement jazz club known as the Iridium on Wednesday night for his Sunshine Rock Winter 2020 Solo Electric tour. Mould is widely renowned as a major architect and antagonist of the alternative music revolution of the 1990’s. He set the rock world ablaze in the 80’s as frontman for the hardcore trio Hüsker Dü, and then stole many hearts with the more sweetly melodic band Sugar in the first half of the 90’s. Still, for the last 25 years he has been largely going it alone as a solo act and has knocked me out with the continuing quality of his music. In my opinion, there are very few musicians out there who haven’t creatively burned out or faded away in their later careers, but Bob defies convention and just continues to release one perfect album after another while showing no signs of slowing.
The stunningly vibrant energy this man radiates blows me away every time I’ve seen him, and this show was positively classic Bob Mould. This guy can still easily sell out much larger venues, even for his one man solo shows, so I felt extra fortunate enough to have gotten to catch his late show at this relatively tiny 180 capacity dinner-style basement club. Despite the late hour and having spent himself in the earlier set, even describing how he cut his hand before and didn’t even notice the blood until he got to the green room afterwards, he still blew out at full power for the late set with a vivaciously positive energy that spilled out into to his adoring fans in the crowd, as he worked himself into a sweaty tornado storming around the stage with his guitar wailing away. He may have exuded mostly positive vibes, but still he had some deeper and darker feelings to express, especially considering the worsening political environment as of late, and he even described how some conservative heckler who apparently didn’t like what he had to say the night before, had really gotten to him. The role Bob had as one of the very few openly gay men of his punk generation is often over-looked, and his role in changing the status quo of the very backwards, conservative, and aggressively homophobic music industry of the 80’s and 90’s should never be downplayed.
“So what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to just go back to my 80’s gay shame days? 1984 and 2020 are starting to seem frighteningly similar from my window. I am not a gay cancer, and I am not scared like before to speak out, and I will never be made to feel ugly for it. We all need to vote, and make our voices heard loud. I am feeling beautiful tonight, and I hope all of you are too,” said Mould mid-set as he raged into a handful of brand new and very politically potent songs that point towards a more socially urgent musical direction from the more upbeat rock sound of last year’s aptly titled album Sunshine Rock. He spoke at length about how he’s found more contentment and happiness since he’s been spending more of his time in Berlin, but clearly he’s quite worried about the land of his birth and the direction we’re headed.
Still, he was quite funny and endearing throughout the show, as he cracked jokes and even played quite off the cuff at times. This amazing man is so over-flowing with artistic fruitfulness he actually played a song flippant little ditty he had apparently just came up with before the show with almost no practice. He described the track as being about a retail store in Brooklyn and said it had been improvised on the spur of the moment earlier in the day with a friend. Bob thought it sounded a little like the 80’s German metal band Scorpions, and he proceeded to play some hilarious “arena rock” guitar chords, then said it also reminded him of Kiss. It’s precisely that kind of spontaneity that helps keep an artist fresh.
He undoubtedly changed up the setlist greatly from the earlier set, as he is known to do, but with the abundant cornucopia of classic songs he has under his belt, he certainly has a lot to choose from. Despite playing lots of brand new ditties, he did also pepper in some classics from throughout his career. He jammed out some stripped-down (yet still intensely vital) versions of Hüsker Dü songs like “I Apologize,” “Hate Paper Doll,” and, of course, the closer of “Makes No Sense at All” complete with the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme sing-along. He also played the Sugar classics “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” and “Hoover Dam,” the former having a fiery solo that flaunted why is still considered to be a modern guitar hero by so many hordes of music freaks like myself. For his solo songs he went all the way back to “See A Little Light” from his 1989 debut Workbook. I also caught “Stand Guard” from my favorite album Black Sheets of Rain from back in 1990. He also didn’t overlook us fans of his more recent releases, with “The Descent” from 2012, “The War” from 2014’s Beauty & Ruin, and “Daddy’s Favorite” and “Black Confetti” from 2016’s absolutely perfect Patch the Sky, as well as a few from his last disk Sunshine Rock which was certainly one of my absolute favorite albums of last year. At this rate, he may very well drop several new albums by year’s end, and I will most certainly eat up every delicious morsel this man cooks up.
Article: Dean Keim