Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC • October 2, 1998
Bob Mould probably doesn’t know it, but he has been there for a lot of really hard times in my life. Whether it was a bad breakup or facing hard decisions or stress of some other sort, it is usually Mr. Mould that goes into the CD player first. So after almost ten years of devotion and never seeing the man live, my time came October 2nd. This tour was announced as Mr. Mould’s final tour in the traditional rock group format. With this in mind, I drove 13 hours each way, and after seeing the show, it was a small price to pay.
The opening act was Varnaline, who aren’t really worth talking about much, typical college rock fare, heavy on the cliches. Soon after them, Bob Mould and his band filed onto the stage to begin. I don’t think I have ever been more excited about a show in my life (this is biased journalism, get over it), and I was well rewarded. They opened with songs from the new Last Dog and Pony Show album, and continued to play a mix of songs from Workbook, Black Sheets of Rain, and the self-titled CD. There would be no way to list the highlight songs, as the show was 100% highlights. Even songs I didn’t particularly love on the albums made for great listening live.
As I have heard him do on live recordings, the songs changed a good deal in a live setting. Songs like “Brasilia Crossed with Trenton” and “Hanging Tree” especially became more intense and dynamic at the show, the songs would quiet down often only to be turned back into a screaming tirade. Other songs, such as “Skintrade” and “Hear Me Calling,” became more dramatic, while distorted electric guitars took the place of the subtle acoustic playing on “Lonely Afternoon.”
The song choices seemed very conscious and each older song’s lyrics took on a new meaning in light of the end of the era of Bob Mould playing rock-n-roll. Lines like “… I’ve been here too long/ I need a change/ and I hope you understand… ” or “… I’m sorry you’re disappointed/ but times they changed and so did I… ” make for a kind of unrepentant goodbye from a man who, in his own words, knows that sincerity can only stay so long.
The final song of the set was “See A Little Light,” and what once seemed to be a breakup song became a song about knowing when the time is right to let go. We left the Cat’s Cradle awestruck and with severe inner ear trauma, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.