See a Little Light: A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould: Concert Review
Dave Grohl, Ryan Adams and more paid tribute to the legendary punk rocker during a nostalgic two-hour-plus set.
“I did not get a gold watch tonight!” insisted punk icon Bob Mould towards the end of a two-hour-plus tribute to his music on Monday night at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. “I have plans!”
Of course he does. Though Mould has never achieved a level of fame even approaching mainstream, he's got one of the most revered bodies of work in music. His '80s band Husker Du served as an inspiration for bands like Nirvana and R.E.M., and his early '90s follow-up project, Sugar, now sounds like a blueprint for the pop-minded, raw-edged rock sound that's been dominating radio for the past decade. He's never slowed down, releasing solo albums, guesting and producing for young artists, becoming an open gay voice in the music community and, most recently, writing and releasing a tell-all biography covering his entire upbringing and its effect on his career.
So the fact that he's got plans isn't a surprise, nor is the amount of reverence for his material brought to the stage by an all-star cast during Monday's tribute show, presented unexpectedly as mostly a cathartic blast of energy rather than a toned-down examination of Mould's songwriting.
It also was a healthy dose of '90s nostalgia, especially since the evening's host, Matt Pinfield, hasn't aged at all since his stint as host of the alt-rock stomping grounds of MTV's long-cancelled 120 Minutes. He interviewed each performer as if they were sitting on his red couch, grasping at stories of Mould's influence on their songwriting.
The actual answers to that question were obvious in each performance, most of which were performed by acts supported by Mould's current band. Spoon's Britt Daniel started the evening with a take on Sugar's “The Act We Act,” vocally sputtering throughout to make it his own. Craig Finn, the singer for the Minneapolis band The Hold Steady, revealed he and Mould shared not just a hometown but a guitar teacher before taking on “The Real World” and “A Good Idea.” The night's one misstep – a song from comedianne Margaret Cho, performed with the best intentions but the weakest delivery – was followed up by the first set from Mould himself, sitting in with L.A. noise-rockers No Age, thrashing in awe as they blasted through “I Apologize” and “In A Free Land,” both aggressive and raw despite the odd austerity given to the night by the venue itself.
Clearly, the big guns were saved for the end of the night: Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl attacked a six-song set of Mould classics, assaulting the drums on “New Day Rising” as he threw his hair around in unabashed jamming-with-my-heroes mode, after smiling wildly and widely as he guitar-jammed with Mould on “Something I Learned Today”.
But it was roots-rocker Ryan Adams who stole the night; by performing two of Mould's less-known, more recent numbers alone with an acoustic guitar, he gave a plaintive weight to his 10 minute performance, conjuring meaning in melody and finding notes that never existed in the songs original state, yet felt even more true in this one. If Mould ever does have that gold-watch ceremony, he'd be lucky to have Adams provide the resigned, resigning soundtrack.
(Britt Daniel & Jessica Dobson) The Act We Act, JC Auto
(Craig Finn & Tad Kubler) Real World, A Good Idea
(Margaret Cho & Grant Lee-Phillips) Your Favorite Thing
(No Age, Bob Mould) I Apologize, In A Free Land
(Ryan Adams) Heartbreak A Stranger, Black Sheets of Rain
(Dave Grohl, Bob Mould) Hardly Getting Over It, Could You Be The One, Ice Cold Ice, Something I Learned Today, Chartered Trips, New Day Rising
(Bob Mould) Hoover Dam, If I Can't Change Your Mind, Celebrated Summer, Makes No Sense At All
(Dave Grohl, Craig Finn, Tad Kubler, Margaret Cho, No Age, Bob Mould) See A Little Light