On occasion, I come across a band or musician for whom I feel a deep sense of respect and admiration. Of course in this case, the feeling is based solely on intuition; that and tidbits of information gleaned from the ever reliable internet. All that notwithstanding, I still wish I could refer to ex Hüsker Dü and Sugar frontman as that eccentric friend of the family we all lovingly refer to as “Uncle Bob”. While Hüsker Dü preceeded my foray into punk and indie rock I instantly fell in love with Sugar when I first heard them in the early to mid 90’s, eventually backtracking to Hüsker Dü mid 80’s classics like Flip Your Wig and Zen Arcade. Still there was something special and infectious about the power pop tracks Sugar spun, particularly on their 1992 debut album Copper Blue. Mould himself is familiar with this phenomenon, and describes these songs as having a “chemical chorus—you hear it once and your brain starts tingling.” Leading up to Saturday’s show in Northampton, MA, I had been pumping myself full of these endorphin stimulating songs hoping to hear and experience them live. I, nay, my brain, was not the least bit disappointed.
Joining Mould and company on this leg of the tour, Ted Leo opened the show sans Pharmacists. While I prefer Leo with his backing med pushers, he did play a majority of Pharmacists songs with a couple of new tracks mixed in along with an Eddie and the Hot Rods cover of “Do Anything You Wanna Do.” His set was clean, concise, and neat, much like his suit and blue suede shoes but lacked the passion I found to be the hallmark of one Uncle Bob.
After a brief intermission and an announcement regarding the no phone recording policy in place for the evening’s show, Jason Narducy scooped up his red sparkle Fender Precision bass, Jon Wurster settled in behind his silver sparkle C&C drum kit, and “Uncle Bob” took up his signature silver aged Fender Stratocaster slung low. The trio wasted no time in launching into the classic Sugar song “A Good Idea” followed by yet another, “Changes”, that had the crowd whipped into a frenzy almost immediately. Aside from the occasional Sugar song, the trio played cuts primarily from Bob’s solo albums including 2012’s Silver Age, 2014’s Beauty & Ruin, and of 2016’s Patch The Sky. That is until all hell broke loose during “Something I Learned Today” off of Hüsker Dü’s 1984 breakthrough Zen Arcade. To temper the crowd’s hysteria, Mould broke out the melodic classic “Hardly Getting Over It” from 1986’s Candy Apple Grey. Thankfully everything ended on a sombre note. Ha! Yeah right! The evening culminated in the emphatic, ecstatic anthem from Hüsker Dü’s third album New Day Rising “Celebrated Summer”. It was as if Mould had queried the audience beforehand as to what would make the perfect setlist and executed it to perfection.
I saw nothing other than sweaty smiling faces leaving Pearl Street Night Club that evening.
Thanks for an incredible evening Uncle Bob!
- (Sugar) A Good Idea
- (Sugar) Changes
- The End of Things
- The Descent
- I Don’t Know You Anymore
- You Say You
- Voices in my Head
- Hold On
- (Sugar) If I Can’t Change Your Mind
- Hey Mr. Grey
- (Sugar) Hoover Dam
- Lucifer and God
- Daddy’s Favorite
- Black Confetti
- Tomorrow Morning
- Losing Time
- (Hüsker Dü song) Something I Learned Today
- The War
- (Hüsker Dü song) Hardly Getting Over It
- (Hüsker Dü song) Celebrated Summer