Shop our Big Takeover store for back issues, t-shirts & CDs
Follow The Big Takeover
Photos by Patric Carver
After eight shows in the Golden State, Bob Mould played the final California stop on his solo electric tour. The stage manager for the venue cheerfully listed off some other acts that would be breezing through in the near future, including a Bluegrass Festival. She had the sensibility to keep it short as is was painfully obvious that the overlap between fans of folksy traditional music and audience for Mould was fairly slim.
So, it was with some irony that opening act H.C. McEntire fit right the quirky digs at Freight and Salvage and quickly won over the crowd. McEntire possessed plenty of aw-shucks charm. Joking about having purchased the amps on stage at guitar center in preparation for the tour, her humor was self-deprecating without being degrading. This was a blunt contrast to the seriousness and sophistication of her music. Vocally, McEntire reminded me of a sweeter, more ethereal Bobby Gentry, gritty but not grimey. The song of the night for me was “Footman’s Coat,” a twisting, bleeding piece of poetry that evokes the peculiar relief that comes from sharing some personal agony. One measure of an artist is how greatly they cherish vulnerability as it illustrates the risks they’re willing to take to connect. McEntire was awash with vulnerability built upon such earnesty and purity that it challenged the audience to take a chance on honesty, too.
This was a fitting opening for Mould as a solo electric set is an exercise in vulnerability for any musician, even a veteran. Not many people can be taken seriously while playing big rock in a small way. The whole singer-songwriter, man-and-his-guitar trope evokes images of some poor lost soul having a midlife crisis on at the open mic. Rock music, for the most part, was meant to be played by rock bands. Mould has never been one to stick to the conventional, though.
The set list was a Hansel-and-Gretel trail of breadcrumbs through Mould’s rock career. At times, I was felt at times like I was putting together pieces of a puzzle with no picture on the box while trying to guess songs in this stripped-down format. For instance, his declawed version of “Hoover Dam” felt positively needley in comparison to the Sugar version. Listening to the song post-concert, I grew my appreciation for the jangly playing that electrifies the song. At Freight and Salvage, the song was enjoyable, but the real benefit was the lasting impression it had one me and the complexity it added to my future listens. In that regard, Mould’s set did feel a little like I was participating in some sort of class. Mould 101, perhaps?
The song that stuck with me the most, “See a Little Light” was probably the closest to it’s recorded version. The song has always been one of my favorites because you get the feeling that Mould is trying to convince himself as much as the audience. Hope is a funny thing because it’s optimism that has managed its way to germinate in fear. Absent drums, bass, and fancy stage lighting, Mould managed to still capture that simply lovely desperation. Mould managed to produce a communal feeling while all alone on stage, raw and without reservation.
Bob Mould continues his solo electric tour across North America and Europe through October 2022.
More in concerts