Live: Bob Mould / J. Robbins @ Lark Hall, 05/18/2022

Last night, a healthy crowd of discerning music fans chose the gorgeous confines of Lark Hall to see punk/alternative legend Bob Mould bring his clunkily-named Solo Electric: Distortion & Blue Hearts! tour to Albany. They were greeted with an earnest, hard-working run-through of a legendary catalog that stretches back some forty years.

Bob Mould

Bob Mould is best known as the guitarist and co-lead-singer-and-songwriter of the seminal punk rock trio Husker Du. When that band split up, he embarked on a successful solo career that lasts to this day, interrupted only by a two-album foray in the 90s with the critically-lauded new band he would front, Sugar. Over this long span, he has accomplished a neat little trick. He simultaneously demonstrates a dramatic evolution in his songwriting, while maintaining a basic sound and approach that is unmistakably consistent. The overt politics of 2020’s Blue Hearts are a long way from the hardcore punk of 1982’s Land Speed Record, but you will instantly recognize his voice and his guitar on both.

Mould unassumingly took the stage in a plain black T-shirt, in front of a single mic, with a single guitar to keep him company on stage. It would stay this way for the duration of the show, broken up only by very quick trots out to the sides of the stage, and a couple of brief bits of banter. This all matches his ethos and his music well. There’s really nothing “flash” about him – his guitar and his voice do the talking, period. He opened with “The War”, a lesser-known track from 2014’s Beauty & Ruin album. This was immediately followed by two classic Husker Du tracks from the mid-80’s, “Flip Your Wig” and “I Apologize”. His voice – a beautiful rough howl – sounded every bit as good as it did in the 80s. Mould’s delivery is such that it always sounds like he is yelling, even when he’s not. This is not a jab, it works brilliantly, and there’s nobody else who really sounds like him. At 61, it would not be surprising to hear him tone it down a bit, but there were no signs of that.

It was also abundantly clear that Mould still “feels” all of these songs. When you’re doing a lot of yelling, you need the emotion to match the delivery, or it just feels off. And Mould definitely delivers that emotion. 60 seconds in, he was in a full sweat, pulling those lyrics out from deep inside, letting it move him. Contrast this with, say, a latter-day Black Francis, who largely puzzles with his mostly clinical yowls nowadays. Bob is nothing if not real.

Bob Mould

After humorously reminding us that he once lived in “the 518” (Malone, NY), he played several songs from the first part of his post-Husker Du career. “See a Little Light”, as big a hit as it gets for him, was a highlight here…its erstwhile baggage of being “not heavy enough” has long since been reevaluated. From here we moved into a five song cluster from more recent albums. His body language telegraphed that he likes “The Descent” (from 2012’s Silver Age), and that translated into a particularly strong performance. After that, it was back to the Husker Du Years, including favorites “Hardly Getting Over It” and a (somewhat surprising) “Never Talking to You Again”, penned by his former bandmate-and-rival Grant Hart.

Fanboy stuff aside, I must admit that about a third of the way through his performance, I really wished he had a band with him. Nothing wrong with his playing – distorted and sharp as ever. But I realize so much of the interest in his songs comes from the interplay with the other instruments. His licks, while impressive on their own, become pure magic when they gel with an impossibly fast drum fill, or a bass line that has quietly assumed a lead part. Absent that interplay, there is a sameness to it that does not do him justice. As a solo performer, I would have preferred him to mix it up with an acoustic guitar, or to do alternate readings of a song or two.

He closed his set out with a few more songs, the clear highlight of which was (perhaps surprisingly) the recent “Sunshine Rock”. This reinforced to me that his songwriting remains as strong as ever. He paused for the briefest of moments, before launching into his two-song encore, culminating with “Makes No Sense At All”. The crowd, as they were all night, were quite appreciative if not exactly frenzied. Throw a rhythm section in there, and it’d be a different story.

J. Robbins (r) and Gordon Withers

Opener J. Robbins, accompanied by cellist Gordon Withers, delivered about 45 minutes of solid and likable songwriting. I didn’t know what to expect from him coming into the show (based on his own punk roots), but similar to Mould he is a man that defies pigeonholing. His songs last night had the distracting characteristic of ending somewhat abruptly, but were otherwise pleasing. And kudos to he and Withers for a rousing cover of Gang of Four’s “To Hell with Poverty” to end his set.

Setlist (Bob Mould)

  • The War
  • Flip Your Wig
  • I Apologize
  • Hoover Dam
  • Stand Guard
  • See a Little Light
  • Sinners and Their Repentances
  • Forecast of Rain
  • The Descent
  • You Say You
  • Walls in Time
  • Keep Believing
  • Too Far Down
  • Never Talking to You Again
  • Hardly Getting Over It
  • Voices in My Head
  • Sunshine Rock
  • If I Can’t Change Your MInd
  • Siberian Butterfly
  • Something I Learned Today


  • The Ocean
  • Makes No Sense at All

Photo Gallery by Amy Klemme

Comments are closed.