Compositions for the Young & Old, Interlude | The Big Show

Mike and Jason finally check in with their thoughts on Bob Mould’s 2014 Old Rock House concert as the “Compositions for the Young & Old” series roars back to life.

Jason: Hello, dear reader! First, mega-apologies for how egregiously late this concert review is. For those of you who followed “Compositions for the Young & Old” as it was first going up, you know Mike and I spewed forth an insane amount of words about Bob Mould in a very short period of time, and after co-writing, editing, and formatting 19 of these massive write-ups inside of a month, I needed a break…and that break turned into a year. Ugh.
What’s especially embarrassing is that this article, which consists of our two-man review of the Bob Mould show at the Old Rock House in St. Louis on September 18, 2014, is that it was written two days after the show. So at least you know it was written when we were still basking in the afterglow of easily the concert highlight of 2014. Read on for our thoughts, and keep checking back every Friday for the next few weeks as Mike and I finally get back on the horse and work our way through the rest of Bob’s discography.
Mike: The night started off in good fashion with the opener Cymbals Eat Guitars. I hate to admit, but I knew next to nothing about them prior to the show, just knew the name from seeing it in press releases and various articles here and there. I thought they were great…very reminiscent of college rock from the late ‘80s/early ‘90s before it became “alternative.” Sonically, they reminded me a lot of a Superchunk, which ties nicely into Bob’s world since his current drummer, Jon Wurster, is Superchunk’s drummer.
Jason: Yeah, I was pretty impressed by them, too. I heard the ‘80s/’90s alternative sound, but also heard a bit of early emo in their sound, too…a hint of Braid or We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes-era Death Cab for Cutie.
Mike: That would make sense. In reading about their new album, it’s a tribute to a friend that died. Emo subject matter there.
Jason: It was definitely a passionate performance. Their singer looked like his veins might burst out of his neck at any second. And, as I mentioned at the show, he looked so much like he could be Jason Segel’s younger brother that it was kind of surreal.
Mike: It really was surreal. Maybe we have a guitar off between the two like the Will Ferrell/Chad Smith drum-off?
Jason: Heh.
Mike: I really would like to see a full/extended set with them. They sounded great and were really into it. I need to check out the three albums they have out so far.
Jason: Yeah, it was an impressive set, all around.
Mike: Besides sounding great, I think they set the tone and primed everyone for the rest of the night, which really is the job of an opening act.
Jason: Yeah, distorted guitars loud enough to require earplugs…I’d say that sets the tone for a Bob Mould concert pretty well.
Mike: Which we will get to, but anyone seeing needs to understand just how LOUD his shows are. Take your plugs, kids, and save your ears. Thank god that guy we met in line had extras as I didn’t want to run back to my car.
Jason: Yeah, without a doubt. Thanks, anonymous guy! Of course, even with the earplugs, my ears were still ringing the next day.
Mike: That might have been from the beer.
Jason: No, that was why my head hurt…a hat tip to Modern Brewery!
Mike: Yes! Thanks you, guy from Modern. The hangover the next day was well earned!
Jason: Alright, on to Bob portion of the evening. I almost wish I hadn’t been fanatically reading setists for this tour in the days leading up to the show, because if I hadn’t seen it coming, I’m pretty sure my head would have exploded when Bob opened with “Flip Your Wig” and “Hate Paper Doll.” He’s been putting a decent amount of Hüsker Dü in his setlists over the last decade, but he generally stuck to a handful of songs: “Celebrated Summer,” “I Apologize,” “Too Far Down,” “Hardly Getting Over It.” The resurrection of those two from Flip Your Wig was a pleasant surprise.
Mike: Agreed, a great way to start things off: two upbeat, fast-tempo songs to get people’s blood pumping. And it got Bob smiling from the get-go when he say the incredible reception he got from it.
Jason: That said, the show did take a bit to build up to a full boil for me. I’m not sure if it was the band warming up, the sound guy getting his adjustments just right, or me getting my earplugs positioned in that perfect spot to decrease the volume without muffling the sound, but it took until the fourth song before I felt like everything fully clicked into place.
Casual fans probably weren’t quite ready for the stretch that came next. A just-the-hits set? Not with Bob, man. After opening with two Hüsker songs and a beloved Sugar classic (“Changes”), seven of the next eight songs were from his last two albums. And they sounded phenomenal.
Mike: They really dd. I didn’t notice as much of a slow start but once he started sweating, Jesus, it was like the heavens opened up and he just kept firing bolt after bolt after bolt at us. His voice was in prime form, he was tearing up Old Blue. Jon Wurster is great to watch as a live drummer, energetic and super-animated, which is always a great thing. Jason Narducy was jumping around and having a blast as well, which both Bob and the crowd total fed off of.
Jason: Wurster’s hamming it up was a little off-putting for me at first, but I’m not familiar with him. I guess I’ve gotten used to drummers that fade into the background a bit more, as the other times I’ve seen Bob, he played with LDAPS drummer Matt Hammon or Fugazi’s Brendan Canty. Both of which are fantastic drummers, but neither is particularly showy.
But he grew on me eventually, and I’ve been a fan of Narducy’s for a while (his band Verbow, whose debut Bob produced, are an undiscovered early ‘00s gem) so they won me over.
Really, what it comes down to is he’s been playing with these three for, what, three or four years now? Probably longer than he played with Sugar, even. And that camaraderie comes through, for sure.
Mike: I like seeing really dynamic drummers. The Features’ drummer was like that, almost like he was running some kind of Olympic event, he was so active and animated.
It was interesting that he only played solo cuts from the last two albums, mostly Beauty & Ruin. Thankfully both albums are incredibly good. I want to relive this show!!!
Jason: Bob’s last two solo albums are fantastic…easily the best he’s done since the late ‘90s. So it’s definitely not a problem to have the setlist heavily weighted towards the new stuff.
Mike: Nope. So not seeing some of hit classic solo songs like “Egøverride, “See A Little Light,” or “Deep Karma Canyon” isn’t really an issue. Give him another 40 minutes in his set and he would have gotten round around to them.
Jason: As it stands, we got a 25-song setlist. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Mike: Heck no, especially since it was HD heavy.
Jason: And of course, nestled right in the middle of that slew of new songs was “Up in the Air,” one of my absolute favorite Hüsker Dü songs.
Mike: Yeah, that one was a big surprise.
Jason: I know this will sound totally fanboy and not very professional critic, but that song right there was downright magical. I never expected to hear him play that song as long as I live, and not only did he play it, he positively nailed it. The ebb and flow between the verses and those big soaring choruses, with Jason nailing Grant’s backing vocals on the original…it was just unreal. One of the greatest moments in any concert I’ve ever been to.
Mike: You looked like it was one of your favorite moments in life.
Jason: Not an understatement!
Mike: I honestly never thought I’d hear some of these songs live again as it’s been so long since I’ve seen him perform. I got “Divide and Conquer.” The only time in my life I’ve seen it in person and it might be the last, who knows. I will treasure it.
And seeing Bob have just an absolute blast on stage made me very happy. Seeing a band into their performance and having a great time performing makes a great show even better
Jason: Yeah, you could tell he was having a blast up there. When I’ve seen him before, he’s generally looked…not necessarily dour, but serious, stern, on a mission. But here he had a sold out crowd that was very enthusiastic, especially in the section up near the stage.
Mike: “On a mission” is a good way of putting it.
Jason: The doors were open to let in the air from outside, and it was just warm enough for the crowd to be a jostling, lightly sweaty mess. And there’s Bob up there, our ringleader, sweating through his shirt and fogging up his glasses but grinning the whole time.
He had a bit of a mischievous look at one point that just cracked me up. He had just come out of “The War” and “Hardly Getting Over It,” two dark, depressing songs. And then he looks over at Jason and has this mischievous grin on his face, as if to say, “Hey, watch me blow their tiny little minds.” And then, boom, “Hoover Dam.” The darkness, the depression, all gone, replaced by one of the most life-affirming songs in his catalog.
Mike: I saw that, too. And he did. And it was fucking glorious.
They knew they had us totally under their spell and were not letting go. And just kept giving and giving.
Jason: There was no sag in that show at all, but it wasn’t endless pummeling in the face, either. “Nemeses Are Laughing,” “The War,” “Hardly Getting Over It,” and probably the biggest surprise, “Come Around” (never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to hear a Beaster song) had that slow, chugging sound Bob does so well, where the guitars wash over you.
But then it really amped up from there on out, just one fast song after another, each getting faster and faster.
“I Apologize,” “Divide & Conquer” (which was just savage), “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” “Hey Mr. Grey”…and the one-two hardcore punch of “Something I Learned Today” and “In a Free Land.”
It’s funny, in our Bob Mould discography project, I relistened to the interview disc that came with LDAPS, and in there, as Bob is talking about retiring the “loud band thing” (way back in 1998!), he says a lot about how he doesn’t want to look old and silly up there because loud rock music is (paraphrasing) “a young man’s game, best left to people who think rock music can change the world.” And yet there we were, watching a man of 53, thrashing out hardcore punk songs he wrote when he was 23, and just completely annihilating them. It was unreal.
Mike: It was all killer, no filler. No breaks in between songs, no long sections of banter. That combo of “Something I Learned Today” and “In A Free Land” was just nuts. That was my biggest surprise of the night. Hell, “Free Land” isn’t even on a proper album.
And yeah, I don’t agree that it’s necessarily a young man’s game, considering Bob just laid waste to everyone there and rocked harder than most bands half his age.
Jason: Banter was definitely kept to a minimum. His comment that “We’ll try not to make it 9 years next time” was well appreciated too, wasn’t it?
Mike: Very much so. Like come back in a couple months please!!!
And Bob was mobile on stage. He was not afraid to move about and jump around. Proving again, age doesn’t mean anything. When you feel it you feel it. Hell, that one older guy in the audience ripped his shirt off and tried starting a mosh pit. Kind of annoying, but totally understandable and forgiving because the band was up there rocking out just as hard.
Jason: Yeah, that was the point where I felt old. Like, uh, jostling around is fine, but quit stomping on my feet and just let me watch the damn show, guy.
Mike: Heh. The older we get, the clumsier we are at jumping around. A LOT more feet getting stomped on.
There were so many happy people there. The inclusion of that many HD songs, and the fact that it was a killer show after not coming for 9 years really made the crowd happy and very enthusiastic. On my lone (and Pitfall-like) sojourn to the restroom, even people way in the back of the Old Rock House were rocking the hell out.
Jason: Oh, that’s awesome. I couldn’t even imagine trying to fight your way back to the bathroom. Everywhere within eyeshot of where we were (about 10-15 feet from the stage) was shoulder-to-shoulder people.
Mike: It was a rough trip there and back. Storming the Gates of Mordor might have been easier.
And this was one of the few shows were the volume was excessive, but good. Most shows that I’ve been too where the volume was past 11, it sounds like dreck because it’s just so distorted. Not here.
Jason: Yeah, it did hit that sweet spot. I ended up taking out my earplugs for a few songs (“The Descent,” “Up in the Air”) and it was loud, but not painfully so. My eardrums were still thanking me the next for wearing plugs through most of the set, though.
Mike: Listening to the whole show without plugs would have been bad.
I really have zero negative things about that show. That is gonna end up as my show of the year
Jason: …and that’s not even counting the encore!
Mike: “Love Is All Around” is such a fantastic closer.
Jason: Yeah. I wonder if he pre-plans the encore, or if he has different encores for different types of audiences. That was such a fun, smile-inducing show that the pair of “Makes No Sense At All” and “Love Is All Around” just fit perfectly.
Mike: For me, it was affirming and cathartic at the same time.
Jason: It seems kind of goofy that the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song would make for a fitting closer, but it really did. I mean, for all the harrowing emotions in some of the songs that night (and there are a lot of harrowing emotions to be found in Bob’s catalog), it is comforting to end the night hearing “You’re gonna make it after all.”
Mike: Exactly. It felt like a giant hug. I damn near cried
Jason: We doing Dogs & Ponies and letter grades?
Mike: Ha. No dogs. All ponies for me! A++++.
Jason: Yeah, other than the slow ramp up in intensity through the first three songs, there wasn’t a single down moment in the entire show. I’ve seen Bob quite a few times—with the Last Dog & Pony Band in 1998, a couple times with electronic backing tracks in 2002, a couple solo electric shows in 2003-04, the full band Body of Song tour in 2005—and this was far and away the best show of his I’ve seen. A++++ for sure.
Mike: It’s been since before LDAPS that I’ve seen him. Just a fantastic show all around
Flip Your Wig
Hate Paper Doll
Star Machine
The Descent
I Don’t Know You Anymore
Up in the Air
Little Glass Pill
Kid with Crooked Face
Nemeses Are Laughing
The War
Hardly Getting Over It
Hoover Dam
Tomorrow Morning
Come Around
I Apologize
Divide & Conquer
If I Can’t Change Your Mind
Hey Mr. Grey
Something I Learned Today
In a Free Land


Makes No Sense At All
Love Is All Around

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