Wrapping up a book-hyping promotional blitz that included a live Current 89.3 session, an in-store appearance at Magers & Quinn and a little preliminary business before he got to town, Bob Mould returned to the Dakota on Wednesday for a dual reading and performance. The two-hour set was a unique treat for those of us who've seen his solo shows dozens of times (including a few referenced in his new autobiography; not too many other books mention the Cannibal Club in Austin, Texas).
Bob started out by singing the song that gave his book its title, "See a Little Light," and then he unplugged right away to read about living on a farm near Pine City, Minn., around the breakup of Hüsker Dü. That led to three more songs from his classic 1989 solo debut, "Workbook" -- "Lonely Afternoon" pretty much explains it all. After that came a verbal and musical reading on his Sugar years, followed by an account of his second of two long-term relationships. That set up the first of two rarely played tunes: "Thumbtack," which was absolutely harrowing.
Things brightened toward the end, as he talked about the early -'00s when he "focused on being gay" ("It's a lot of hard work," he quipped), which helped make a strong case for recent songs "The Breach" and "I'm Sorry Baby, But You Can't Stand in My Light Anymore." He did not play any Hüsker songs until the encore, when he also read passages on "Zen Arcade." With his former bandmate Greg Norton looking on from the audience -- Greg hadn't seen Bob in 18 years -- Mould recounted their time prepping the album at "The Church" in east St. Paul and all the pent-up angst and drugs that went into the album (Norton congenially disputed the accounts of his own drug use after the show). That sparked another rarity, "Something I Learned Today."
Mould clearly has learned a lot about himself from writing the book, and the confessional tone of what he read on stage made the music all the more powerful Wednesday. Here's the full song order:
See a Little Light / (reading on Workbook, farm) / Wishing Well / Sinners & Their Repentances / Lonely Afternoon / (reading on Sugar) / The Act We Act / Hoover Dam / If I Can't Change Your Mind / (reading on Austin, New York, Kevin) / Thumbtack / Egooveride / (reading on his sexual growth) / Life and Times / The Breach / I'm Sorry Baby... ENCORE: (Zen Arcade reading) / Something I Learned Today / Chartered Trips