Punk icon Bob Mould brought his energy, gratitude and tight trio to Lakeview’s Vic Theatre on September 24. His Distortion and Blue Hearts! tour started September 16 in Boston and morphs into a Solo Distortion tour on October 15 in Bloomington, Illinois.
Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Kestrels opened the show. The musicians seemed just as anxious to get back to performing as the masked fans in the not-overpacked house were to witness live music again (face coverings and vaccine proof were required for entry). The reverb-happy power trio filled the venue on an unadorned stage accompanied by simple yet effective lights.
An hour later, headliner Mould took the stage with his trio of Jason Narducy on bass and backing vocals, and Jon Wurster on drums, all wearing black tees and jeans (simplicity!), saying “It’s Friday in Chicago. Fuck yeah!” They were jacked to be back, and offered speedier versions of Hüsker Dü and Sugar classics like “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” and “Hoover Dam,” in a “loud, fast and angular fashion” as Mould once described his band’s sound and delivery.
This post-pandemic, stripped-down performance was a welcome return to in-person shows, focusing on lyrics, craftsmanship and connection. The resulting simplicity is perhaps one of the few bright spots after 18 months of quarantine. The band delivered tunes at breakneck speed exactly how Mould once described as a “blistering wall of sound, bright white radio static, with an occasional melody, words buried deep in the storm as if encrypted for short wave transmission.” Mould’s tunes are indeed monoliths that can either shield and separate, or elevate and exalt.
Wurster provided the driving heartbeat for the team, Narducy struck solid Ramones rock stances (Mould credits the seminal punk band for inspiring his music and ethos), and Mould masterfully strutted and fretted (in more ways than one) his hour upon the stage (he’s referred to his movements as “lurching”). The band was fired-up, hungry, energetic, appreciative and loud. Mould thanked the audience for wearing masks so he could continue his “victory lap.”
Narducy’s Split Single band released the third album Amplificado this summer, and the Evanston resident (and good COVID citizen) also played small shows on local porches and yards throughout the pandemic. Wurster’s in Split Single too, and both are also members of Superchunk. Wurster’s Instagram feed features groan-worthy signs tagged #mynewworstfriend and historic rock photos of unusual couplings filed under #rockandrollweirdness.
Mould was genuinely verklempt at the end of the energetic set and single encore. “Music is my work, my hobby, my life,” he said to the equally grateful crowd. “I fucking missed it.”
He exited the stage, saying simply, “Mask up, chin up, cheer up.”
For those unable to see this tour, Mould offers quite a bit of collateral to enjoy at home. He narrates the audiobook of his 2011 memoir, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody. Listening to the Audible file while riding a bike around town is like having a conversation with him, hearing the story of his growing up gay in a farm town in upstate New York, teaching himself guitar (including on a Flying V), and forming his first band when he attended Macalester College in St. Paul. He chronicles the alcohol and drug use, and the spartan life of the road filled with crises, adventures and punk rock coalition-building. Yet he focuses on his singular, lifelong goal: “We got to play music.”
Mould also offers comprehensive packages of his music. Demon Music Group released the fourth vinyl boxed set Distortion: Live (solo and Sugar music) in July 2021, following the April LP set Distortion: 2008-2019 (District Line, Sunshine Rock), the LP set Distortion: 1996-2007 in January (solo, LoudBomb and Blowoff), and Distortion: 1989-1995 from October 2020 (solo and Sugar), and the 24-CD set Distortion: 1989: 2019 (all Hüsker Dü music).
You can check out more show coming to the Vic Theater at their website!
Did you enjoy this post and our coverage of Chicago’s arts scene? Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by becoming a patron. Or make a one-time donation by PayPal. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support!