Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
Bob Mould and Now, Now at The Horseshoe in Toronto
Frank YangUnderstand that I am in no way, shape, or form complaining, but I was pretty surprised when it was announced that Bob Mould would be playing The Horseshoe this past Friday night. Not that one legendary artist doesn’t deserve a legendary venue, but considering that his profile arguably higher than its been in years thanks to a 2012 that included the 20th anniversary Sugar reissues and tour, the publication of his memoirs, and his best-received new album in some time with Silver Age, to say nothing of the fact that he hadn’t played Toronto in almost half a decade, I thought he’d have been booked into a larger room. At least something on the scale of Lee’s or The Mod Club, where he played the last two times through including the last time I saw him here at home in Fall 2005. But no, it was to be The Horseshoe and so unsurprisingly it was sold out and jammed and primed to go off.
Amidst the… older demographic that was gathered to see Mould celebrate his 30-plus year career, were a smattering of decidedly younger attendees who you could reasonably assume were here to see the opener. Minneapolis trio Now, Now – formerly Now, Now Every Children – have been through town a number of times, but usually attached to bills of a more pop-punk-emo persuasion. That’s why, despite having liked them for a few years, I’d only finally gotten to see them live at SXSW 2011 where I wouldn’t have to sit a half-dozen sets of tattoos and asymmetrical haircuts. Which is not to say that that’s not their natural scene – their thoughtful grunge-pop with downcast lyrics but delivered with big smiles is definitely of a genre – but thanks to Cacie Dalager’s terrifically emotive vocals and their sharp sense of melody, they’re also better than most of that genre and can definitely break to broader appeal. Their latest album Threads was both produced and released by Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla, and his band’s path is one that, with a few lucky breaks and soundtrack placements, Now, Now could reasonably follow them down.
Local fans might have felt disappointed that last year’s Copper Blue tour, wherein Mould, bassist Jason Narducy, and drummer Jon Wurster played the whole of 1992’s seminal Sugar debut in its entirety, didn’t come to town – I was lucky enough to catch one of those shows at SXSW 2012 – but if anyone thought that meant he wouldn’t continue to lean heavily on one of his most-loved records… well they’d have been dead wrong. Mould could have exulted in the roaring response from the audience as he took the stage – it’d have been well-earned – but instead he and his band got straight to work, tearing through side A of Copper Blue in sequence with brutal efficiency. This accomplished two things – it got the audience further worked up into a sweaty lather and got those songs out of the way.
The next block of songs focused on Silver Age and confirmed that these compositions were, as many have pointed out, Mould’s most Sugar-like in years, their balance of melody and white noise existing quite comfortably alongside the older numbers. The new material also elicited more furious guitar soloing from Mould, perhaps him feeling these songs still had room to improvise whereas the Sugar songs were fixed for the ages. Silver Age properly serviced, Sugar material began creeping back into the set, first with a couple of unexpected songs from Beaster – I don’t know that I’ve ever heard any Beaster material live – and then “Your Favorite Thing” from the underrated File Under: Easy Listening.
Finally, inevitably, it was time to reach into the Hüsker Dü songbook for “I Apologize” and “Chartered Trips” before wrapping back in the 21st century with Silver Age standout “Keep Believing”. The first encore contained the only non-Silver Age selection from his solo repertoire – “Egoverride” from his 1996 eponymous effort – and one more Copper Blue selection in “If I Can’t Change Your Mind”, while the second encore deviated from their regular set by inviting local music scribe Sam Sutherland onstage to lead a quick and furious cover of The Viletones’ “Screaming Fist” before closing for good with another trifecta of Hüsker songs.
It was a pulverizing set start to finish – the 15 songs of the main set clocked in at under an hour – but with Mould’s glasses fogged and shirt soaked from the sweat and steam of the crowd and Narducy and Wurster somehow managing to match his energy joule for joule, there was no question they’d given their all. And it answered the question of why they played a smaller room than they probably could have – small space, huge pressure, massive explosion. Legendary.
Photos: Bob Mould, Now, Now @ The Horseshoe – March 1, 2013
MP3: Bob Mould – “The Silence Between Us”
MP3: Now, Now – “Dead Oaks”
MP3: Now, Now – “Thread”
MP3: Now, Now – “School Friend”
MP3: Now, Now – “Neighbors”
MP3: Now, Now – “Roommates”
MP3: Now, Now Every Children – “Everyone You Know”
MP3: Now, Now Every Children – “Sleep Through Summer”
MP3: Now, Now Every Children – “Cars”
Video: Bob Mould – “Star Machine”
Video: Bob Mould – “The Descent”
Video: Bob Mould – “Egoverride”
Video: Bob Mould – “Slay/Sway”
Video: Bob Mould – “It’s Too Late”
Video: Sugar – “Gee Angel”
Video: Sugar – “Believe What You’re Saying”
Video: Sugar – “Tilted”
Video: Sugar – “Helpless”
Video: Sugar – “Changes”
Video: Sugar – “If I Can’t Change Your Mind”
Video: Hüsker Dü – “Could You Be The One”
Video: Hüsker Dü – “Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely”
Video: Hüsker Dü – “Makes No Sense At All”
Video: Hüsker Dü – “Love Is All Around”
Video: Now, Now – “Dead Oaks”
Video: Now, Now – “Thread”
Video: Now, Now Every Children – “Friends With My Sister”
The new Son Volt album Honky Tonk, out this week, is available to stream in whole over at American Songwriter. Blurt, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, and The Riverfront Times have feature pieces on the band.
Stream: Son Volt / Honky Tonk
Video: Ra Ra Riot – “Dance With Me”
The Dumbing Of America has an interview with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, who are prepping for the March 19 release of their new album Specter Af The Feast by giving away an EP for the first single from their website. They play The Kool Haus on May 9.
The Black Angels are streaming a new song off their forthcoming Indigo Meadow, out April 2, with some supporting words at Rolling Stone. The new album brings them to The Danforth Music Hall on April 13.
Stream: The Black Angels – “Evil Things”
Video: Steve Earle – “Invisible”
Entertainment Weekly reports The Hold Steady will contribute a new song to the soundtrack of the upcoming season of Game Of Thrones. The show premieres March 31 and they play the Toronto Urban Roots Fest at Fort York on July 4.
NPR has a video session with Yo La Tengo, back in town at the Toronto Urban Roots Fest on July 7.