BOB MOULD / RODDY HART
26th January 2006
This show, Bob’s first in Scotland since the FUEL tour, was one that I was looking forward to immensely. Just the idea of seeing Bob in Scotland after so long had me quite excited during the day and to turn up outside the venue see the big lettering (BOB MOULD – SOLD OUT) only heightened my expectations.
But the one man and his guitar format was always going to struggle to compete with the still fresh in the memory London band show last September. So in the end my sensible head reckons that this show simply couldn’t have lived up to what were unrealistic expectations. What we were left with therefore was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, no more, no less.
The headline ‘Hart supports Mould’ was one unlikely outcome of this gig but of course it wasn’t that Hart. Instead it was local singer/songwriter Roddy Hart who didn’t live up to the potential Idlewild meets Nova Mob scenario his name suggested (we’ll have to wait until Grant Woomble hits town for that one). He was clearly a bit nervous at first as to how he might go down in front of a Bob audience but fortunately he visibly relaxed after a decent reaction to his first song.
Not quite solo (he had polite electric guitar backing on most of his 6 songs) his approach was to present his largely spartan and downbeat songs in a straightforward way. The one element that I didn’t like was his use of the moothy (one of my least favoured instruments) and the songs without it were certainly the better songs. But the short nature of the set meant that it was a pleasant enough 25 minutes or so.
So to the main act. IMHO rock songs are, for the most part, best presented in a band format and for that reason the one man and his guitar format has never been my favourite. In such circumstances artists have to find ways of making their performances stand out. Julian Cope, for example, pulls off the shamanic comedian quite well and isn’t afraid of leaping into the audience to frighten people every now and then. Bob’s approach of course is to belt it out the songs, putting everything into them, and vocalising instrumental themes from when his guitar isn’t enough, presumably, to add to a song’s dynamics.
I’m sure the latter part of this approach has its fans but, for me, sometimes the songs would be better served by relying on the acoustic alone. By way of illustration, ‘Hardly Getting Over It’ was a great example of less being more to these ears.
Clearly in the States there is an increasing feeling of over-familiarity with the set lists of Bob’s solo shows and the career spanning set was eminently predictable to those who keep in touch with these things. But to UK audiences, any set is a bonus and so no-one at the ABC was disappointed to hear ‘Celebrated Summer’, ‘Chartered Trips’ or ‘I Apologize’. Or for that matter ‘Hardly Getting Over It’, ‘Hoover Dam’ or ‘See A Little Light’.
There were still one or two surprises. ‘No Reservations’ and ‘Sinners …’ are songs that I’d never picked up on as being set staples (although I could be wrong) and they both got an airing. The former in particular was one of the evening’s stand-outs whilst it was also good to hear ‘Needle Hits E’ again (a song I remember from Bob’s last solo gig in Glasgow back in 1991.)
Other highlights included the BoS material featured. ‘High Fidelity’ is a song which is clearly amongst Bob’s current favourites and one which really does benefit from getting stripped back to basics whilst both ‘Circles and ‘Paralyzed’ sounded great as well.
In fact there was nothing at all to fault in the electric portion of the set (no-one could surely quibble about the main set closing trilogy) and, in general, Bob seemed to be quite happy throughout the show even if he didn’t have an awful lot to say for himself.
So all in all a good night but there was one big flaw. Clocking in at barely an hour this set was way too short (perhaps optimistically I was expecting far closer to an hour and a half). I haven’t checked if this has been a typical set length for the UK tour but everything seemed to get wrapped up in something of a hurry and when Bob said ‘Good night’ after ‘Celebrated Summer’, it was an unpleasant shock that my brain struggled to come to terms with.
Even then, a couple of encores would have taken it up to a respectable time but no, just the one. Now I appreciate that the number of encores Bob does seems to be quite unpredictable and maybe we got the encores we deserved. But his ‘Now I’m going to Belgium’ comment at the start of the encore seemed apologetic and he seemed in quite a hurry to get away afterwards.
I’m not really complaining, it’s just after 12 years we wanted a wee bit more …
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