Now that the debut Ramones album has officially celebrated its fortieth birthday, the little corner of the world that we refer to as the punk rock scene as now officially entered its fifth decade. Perhaps more than most subcultures, ours has obviously had its fair share of artists burn out quickly and catastrophically. Some of those that held on did so for a hair (or a decade) too long, continuing to tour as sad or comical shells of their former anarchic selves. But we’ve also got a small-but-growing list of artist whose influence and importance has reached iconic status AND who are still putting out music and performing at such a high level that they’re arguable as vital now as they’ve ever been. If you’re mentally compiling that list in your head and you get through half a dozen names without reaching Bob Mould, you’ve undoubtedly got some serious reevaluating to do.
Mould is presently touring in support of his latest release, Patch The Sky, which marks not just his twelfth solo album since the late-80’s breakup of Husker Du, but the third album in what’s been billed as a bit of a late-season resurgence for Mould and his career. Following 2012’s Silver Age and 2014’s Beauty & Ruin, all released on Merge Records, Patch The Sky features Mould and his current power trio lineup (Jason Nardusky on bass, Jon Wurster on drums) firing on all cylinders for the third time with another dozen blistering, emotionally charged anthems that have been Mould’s trademark for more than a quarter-century.
The Patch The Sky tour came through Boston’s Paradise Rock Club on May 1st and found Mould and company somehow able to blitz through close to two dozen songs (twenty-three, to be precise) in just a hair over 70 minutes. Aside from introducing the band, there was very little stage banter involved, meaning that the songs followed each other in rapid-fire succession, with barely a tuning or water break to be had. Half of the setlist (which you can see here) came from Mould’s three most recent releases, with three-quarters of Patch The Sky making appearances. A handful of Sugar songs naturally made the setlist, and the main set naturally finished with four Husker Du songs. While the tracks from Mould’s previous bands may qualify as the “crowd favorites,” there really isn’t much of a dropoff, as his solo material fits in quite seamlessly in both musical and lyrical intensity.
A quick break brought the band back out to the stage, accompanied by show-opener Ted Leo manning the drumkit, moving Wurster to frontman status for a rousing rendition of the Ramones’ classic “Beat On The Brat,” in honor of the aforementioned 40th anniversary of Ramones. The evening closed with the Husker Du rendition of “Love is All Around You,” perhaps better known as “the theme from Mary Tyler Moore,” and, of course, “Makes No Sense At All.” Catching Bob Mould live circa 2016 is a bit of a surreal experience on some levels. While there is a bit of well-earned “living legend” status bandied about by fans of Mould’s, the man himself seems to be nowhere near ready, willing or able to rest on his laurels, instead opting to play just as loud and frantic as ever.
As mentioned above, support on this night came from Ted Leo, performing solo on this particular run. Leo, primarily through is Ted Leo And The Pharmacists project, has always been one of those indie darlings that been just a hair below the mainstream radar for whatever reason. Leo is no doubt best known for his Pharmacists or, more recently, The Both projects (the latter with Aimee Mann), so it was fun to watch him perform as a one-man act, filling the instrumental voids with his own vastly underrated guitar abilities.
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