Saturday, 2 June 2012

Bob Mould plays Copper Blue

It's been 20 years since this perfect album was released. Bands such as Husker Du and The Pixies had made a small but significant impact on American music before Nirvana had conquered the world and soon, the ex-Husker Du front man was back, fronting the 3 piece Sugar. Copper Blue was a mixture of thundering guitars and beautiful melodies and Sugar were big news. What the hell, if you have Spotify, listen to it here.

I first heard about them when my work mate Simon gave me a C-90 mix tape containing the likes of Jesus Lizard, Janitor Joe, Mudhoney and many other experimental rock bands and my whole music outlook changed from liking just Numan, Nirvana and metal, and opened me up to the US punk and alternative scene.

I saw Sugar back in '93 at Brixton Academy, and it was probably the loudest gig I've ever been to. Perhaps Motorhead were louder, but it was a close call. One of the highlights of that was the journey to the gig and meeting Greg Norton, the bass player from Husker Du, and pestering him to sign my Sugar ticket.

Cheers to Paul Bailey for this photo
I was at that gig with Mike, the bass player in my band at the time, and it was Mike who came with me tonight. We met up in the pub next door and realised how old we now are when we spent the first few minutes pacing round the pub looking for a nice seat.

We arrived at the gig in time to see the last few songs by The Cloud Nothings. They were pretty good, but I didn't find them particularly memorable. We were based to the right of the stage and after a little Twitter exchange found out that Christian Reilly (from Richard Herring's As It Occurs To Me) was towards the front too but it was too packed to go and say hi. Instead I managed an improvised "YMCA" style AIOTM greeting which he duly returned. This was possibly the oddest and most obscure greeting I've ever made and poor Christian had to explain to his friends what the hell was going on! 

In fact, this is another excuse to link to Christian's excellent Lembit Opik / Lady Gaga parody, "Wonky Face"

Bob was soon on, and bulldozed through Copper Blue. "The Act We Act" is a great opener both to the album and the show, but the highlight for me was his rendition of "The Slim" which I have always thought is the greatest thing to hear live. The album version just doesn't do it justice. Bob's painful screams about the death of a friend from AIDS put a tear in Mike's eye, and it was an emotional part of the show for a lot of people.

The album finished, and Bob announced, "That was the past. This is the future" and gave us 3 or 4 songs from his upcoming album. It was a relief for me that they were great songs. Like most artists who have been around a long time and experimented and taken risks, for example, David Bowie,  Bob's had his fair share of albums of varying quality over the years, but the new guitar and rock based stuff sounds like he's got another great one coming up.

After the new stuff it was back to some old favourites and from the Husker Du back catalogue we got the likes of "I Apologise", "Chartered Trips" (which he often plays, but has never been a favourite of mine), "Celebrated Summer" and "Makes No Sense At All". Mike and I were tempted to shout out or old Husker Du tracks, but only request Grant Hart songs to be a little naughty, but the combination of volume and our own cowardice stopped us.

"Helpless" - Bob Mould 01/06/12 live at the Shepherd's Bush Empire

Mike was hoping for a guest appearance by Dave Grohl, but it wasn't to be. (Younger readers will be more likely to know Bob for his vocals and guitar on "Dear Rosemary" and occasional live guest appearances for The Foo Fighters.

The anticipation of this gig was exciting, but unlike a lot of events, the reality lived up to it. The night ended with a surprise for me. I was at the bar waiting for Mike before we left, and a stranger tapped my shoulder. 

"It's Nick Holland"

Fuck! I haven't seen Nick since even before Copper Blue was released. He was the singer/guitarist in thrash band "Killing Faith" who I used to go and see regularly round the pubs of Surrey as well as being their "official" bootlegger, and this was the first band I saw that made me realise that I could form a band myself.  Big coincidence and a nice end to the evening.

Just to finish off, it was Bob Mould who made me realise the power of Twitter back in 2009. I had forgotten to buy a ticket for his sold out solo show at the Islington O2 and I tweeted despondently about it. I got a reply from a stranger saying he would leave his spare ticket on the door, so I hared down to the venue and found out that he wasn't winding me up and I managed to catch half of Bob's set. I had promised to tweet him and buy him a beer, but I couldn't track him down. So if you're reading this sir, thank you so much! 

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