Live Review, 2/24/12: Bob Mould Blasts Through Copper Blue at Bottom of the Hill

mould-with-band-noise-pop-2.jpg
Iann Ivy
Bob Mould at Bottom of the Hill on Friday

Bob Mould
Fake Your Own Death
Distortion+
Vir
Friday, Feb. 24, 2012
Bottom of the Hill

Better than: Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the best-selling album of 1992, Billy Ray Cyrus' Some Gave All.

On a night that was all about reliving memories, Bob Mould made sure to plant a ringing in the ear of his audience that it won't soon forget. The fact that there was a guy stationed at the door handing out earplugs offered up an early warning that this wasn't going to be your typical rock show.

Of course, fans knew that Friday was going to be a particularly special night back when they bought tickets. (That is, those who were lucky enough to grab some of the gone-in-a-flash tickets, an issue that was exacerbated when Noise Pop posted erroneous on-sale information last month.) To say that the energy inside the venue was palpable would be an understatement: In addition to the poster, T-shirt, and bumper sticker commemorating the fact that Mould would be playing Sugar's 1992 debut, Copper Blue, in its entirety, and overheard conversations about flying into town just to see the show, there was a unique restlessness in the audience, most members of which were double the age of the average rock-show attendee.

Fake-own-death-noise-pop-1.jpg
Iann Ivy
Fake Your Own Death

For a guy who claimed in the late '90s that he was abandoning full-blown electric shows (which was difficult to accept considering he'd helped pave the way for the alternative nation with Hüsker Dü), Mould sure does still like distortion, beginning with Distortion+, his DJ team with Chris Xefos (King Missile, Moth Wranglers) which kept things loud in the venue between bands. Local openers Vir and Fake Your Own Death did their part getting the early-'90s vibe going with their own takes on moody post-punk, the former with a psychedelic groove and the latter (led by ex-Elephone guitarist Terry Ashkinos) with more anthemic ambitions. But, as indicated by Ashkinos' multiple references to the night's headliner (including that he met his wife at a Mould show at the Fillmore), tonight was all about hearing one of alt-rock's finest moments played from beginning to end for the first time.

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Iann Ivy
Vir

Not that Mould seemed to be feeling all that sentimental: He didn't say a single word between songs during his band's 50-minute performance of the 45-minute album. But the music sufficiently did all of the talking, and the mutual-appreciation society between the performers and the fans meant that any sort of poetic waxing of the past would have felt redundant.

mould-with-band-noise-pop-1.jpg
Iann Ivy
Bob Mould

Though the rhythm section helping play Copper Blue on Friday was different from the one that created it (Verbow's Jason Narducy replaced David Barbe on bass, while Superchunk's Jon Wurster handled Malcolm Travis' drum parts), the power trio wasn't just locked in on the 10 timeless songs. It appeared to be having as much fun as the crowd. The album's first three songs -- "The Act We Act," "A Good Idea," and "Changes," which, in retrospect, is one hell of a bar-raising opening threesome -- were shot out of the canon with a deafening noise-pop roar, which set the tone for the rest of the night: Despite Copper Blue's layers and intriguing complexities, tonight was about celebrating a moment in time by turning everything up to 12. And if some subtleties got lost in the mix, so be it. If you wanted to hear Copper Blue presented exactly the way it sounded on record, there's a CD in a blue case back at your place that you could play when you got home.

Following a solid take on "Helpless," Mould and company did the most tweaking of the night on the album's middle trio, toying with the arrangement of a keyboard-less "Hoover Dam," presenting the beginning of the AIDS-lamenting "The Slim" in a relatively more subdued manner, and then turning "If I Can't Change Your Mind" from an acoustic-pop ditty into a pop-punk rabble-rouser. The Gilman-worthy exercise worked just fine, but it also would have been nice to get a little bit of decibel respite during the album's best three minutes. Though Copper Blue certainly doesn't end as strongly as it begins, by the time "Fortune Teller," "Slick," and "Man on the Moon" brought the first part of the evening to a close, it was obvious why the recent San Francisco resident is gracing the cover of this year's Noise Pop program: The 20th-anniversary retelling of such a great album during the festival's 20th edition was the week's worthy centerpiece. "Thanks a lot," Mould finally said during the ovation.


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Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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