IN TUNE: Bob Mould doesn’t have a title yet for his memoir, but he says it’ll be out June 2011. Until then, he’s playing out, as he did for a full, sated City Winery house Thursday and Friday.
From the opening chords of “Wishing Well” through the closer “If I Could Change Your Mind,” Friday’s show was an impassoned “best of” set that clearly wasn’t a perfunctory run-through for the just-turned-50 Robert Arthur Mould, who unleashed the fury he’s known for.
He’s battling a cold, he said — good news for the faithful, who know that the insightful poet’s voice is usually best when strained.
You wouldn’t have known he was having any trouble at all from the dozen and a half numbers, most of them old favorites such as “See a Little Light,” that had the perfect framework in the Varick Street venue.
Mould — clad in his familiar black t-shirt and jeans — said he moved to San Francisco a year ago and adopted the baseball Giants, drawing a few scattered boos.
“Hey, at least we took care of the Rangers for you,” he told Yankee fans, of which he said he’s still one.
He also took a little time to talk about his long-awaited book, written with Nirvana chronicler Michael Azerrad. It “sort of challenges the idea of truth,” Mould said. “I’ll be interested to see what you think of it.”
Whenever he’s interviewed, he said, “it’s always the good stuff” he talks about, same as when you first meet a stranger.
“The first impression is what people tend to remember,” Mould told the faithful, “so you create all this hullabaloo and all the things to get [people] excited.”
The book, however, “is not the more pleasant side” of rock and roll, he said. “For all of the successes, there are plenty of failures. I don’t know if it’s going to be the typical rock and roll book. We shall see….”
For longtime fans, the night exploded with Mould’s howls, whether he was playing his acoustic or (mostly) electric guitar.
It reached an apex with “Brasilia Crossed With Trenton,” as Mould flung his head back, singing the tune from “Workbook” as if for the first time, as the cheers grew stronger.
Pain may have produced such an incredible body of work, first with Hüsker Dü (“Could You Be the One,” from their last LP in 1987, was a highlight), then with Sugar, on which Mould relied heavily Friday night — from “Hoover Dam” and “If I Can‘t Change Your Mind” to “Needle Hits E,” “Your Favorite Thing” and “Hardly Getting Over It.”
He pretty much avoided his first few solo recordings, save for “High Fidelity” from “Body of Song.”
Among the more recent selections was the aching “Life and Times,” from last year’s album of the same name, along with “The Breach” and “Circles.” All got the same enthusiastic responses as the rest — not surprising, given the similar sonic quality to Mould‘s older material.
And when he answered a questioner that, no, he doesn’t have another record in the works, no one seemed to mind.
The same couldn’t be said for boredom’s play date, Marshall Crenshaw, who really pushed it after a dozen or so songs — all in mid-tempo, all built on that familiar whine, crawling to that moment when, instead of opening with the song, which would have been a ballsy move, Crenshaw stirred the old-timers with (what else?) “Someday Someway.”
Opening Mould’s first of two sold-out nights was city favorite Lenny Kaye (formerly of the Patti Smith Group) on Thursday. Friday night was a different experience, however.
After being heckled the last few songs, Crenshaw narrowed his eyes and tore into “Someone Told Me,” from last year’s “Jaggedland”:
“Well, I know a man you can’t own up to the things he’s done / He’s got no sense of honor and never did have one / Where would he be without a wall to hide behind? /I’m glad I’m not the one living in his mind”
Crenshaw then closed with the very first song he ever recorded, three decades ago next year, “Something’s Gonna Happen” — and even referenced Robert Gordon in the lyrics. It’s as if he grew a set before the audience’s eyes, and ears, a perfect lead-in to the in-your-face headliner.
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