A few couples folded up their chairs and walked up the hill mid-set, probably disappointed that Bob Mould wasn’t some pleasant singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar.
The former frontman for the great Husker Du turned up at Hartwood Acres on Sunday with an aqua blue Strat, and for a little over an hour served up a sonic storm to go with your wine and cheese.
It didn’t seem like a great sign when he said early on that he’d been touring with a band and hadn’t done a solo show like this in a while. But muscle memory is a beautiful thing, and this show cut right to the raw essence of what makes Mould so great: the slashing guitar, razor-sharp voice, emotional heft and full-on intensity. The cumulative effect (for me anyway) bordered on euphoric, as he mostly slammed one buzzing song into the next.
Whether you preferred the Husker, Sugar or solo eras, Mould delivered. Even he sensed it was working, noting after “Steam of Hercules” -- a song from last year’s excellent “Silver Age -- “Wow, those work that way pretty well, too.”
Mould has never been the most talkative guy on stage, but on Sunday night, in the relaxed park setting with some core fans pressed against the fence, he was quite chatty, discussing his book and recent music projects.
He mentioned that people have been asking him about his return to hard-edged rock on “Silver Age.” “I thought I’d make a rock record again. It’s really easy,” he said, “when you’re in the mood to do it.” It is easy for Mould because the gifts seem to come so naturally.
Late in the set, he sent us to Husker heaven by piling up “Hardly Getting Over It,” “Could You Be the One?” “I Apologize” and “Celebrated Summer” (no easy task for one man and a guitar). Standing alone on that huge empty stage, with a only a couple lights, the 52-year-old punk veteran put on one of the best shows I’ve seen this year.
The 10-member Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros had kicked off the free show weekend at the Arts Festival on Friday night. Mould sounded 10 times better just by himself.
Bob Mould Setlist:
Hear Me Calling
See a Little Light
Your Favorite Little Thing
Round the City Square
Steam of Hercules
*New Song (“Low Season”? “One that I’m working on right now...this very minute)
Sinners and Their Repentances
Hardly Getting Over it
Could You Be the One?
If I Can’t Change Your Mind
Makes No Sense At All
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