“Welcome to our Flashback Saturday.”
So joked Bob Mould, saying his first words and taking his first deep breaths 40 minutes into Saturday’s sold-out First Avenue show. He and his straight-up-mighty band -- bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster -- had just finished tearing through Sugar’s entire “Copper Blue” record at full-steam. Those first 40 minutes of the concert were nearly as exhausting for the crowd as the musicians. Fans excitedly anticipated the record’s every move, from the grimy guitar churn that kicks it off in “The Act We Act” to the wiry bass line at the start of “A Good Idea” to the big singalong moments in “Hoover Dam” and “If I Can’t Change Your Mind.” Bob and the boys nailed the record like they were Ted Nugent bow-hunting for Obama's pet deer.
The “Copper Blue” set would’ve been enough of a nostalgic fix to see fans through to the suddenly feasible Husker Du catalog redux, but it was just a thigh-high dip into the flashback pool compared to the deep-end dive that would come later. First, though, Mould made a brief foray – and really, too brief –into his new album, “The Silver Age,” with the deeper cut “Round the City Square” jumping out extra powerfully on stage. He also saved the blistering new gem “Keep Believing” for a rousing pre-encore finale.
Jaws dropped to the floor at the start of the encore as the drum and bass marched into the familiar opening blast of Hüsker Dü's landmark "Zen Arcade" album, “Something I Learned Today,” which was followed by an even older and more disenchanted classic, "In a Free Land." Mould has been digging deeper into his early tunes in recent years, but he has rarely gone this old-school. Before the encore, he also dropped in “I Apologize” and “Chartered Trips,” two Hüskers songs he has often played for years -- but never with as much venom, vim and vigor as on Saturday. “Chartered Trips” was absolutely mind-blowing, stretched out into a lengthier, bloodier smear of noise.
It wasn’t much of a surprise seeing Mould smile his way through “Copper Blue” earlier in the night (from a happier era of his life), but it was something a shock to witness how much he seemed to enjoy pushing through that way-back flashback portion of the show. He obviously wasn’t alone. Here's the whole set list:
The Act We Act / A Good Idea / Changes / Helpless / Hoover Dam / The Slim / If I Can't Change Your Mind / Fortune Teller / Slick / Man on the Moon (end of Copper Blue) / Star Machine / The Descent / Round the City Square / Circles / Silver Age / I Apologize / Chartered Trips / Keep Believing ENCORE: Something I Learned Today / In a Free Land