Can You Still Hear Me? – Bob Mould live

Bob Mould / Katie Malco – Oran Mor, Glasgow – Wednesday 22nd June 2022

I’ll start off by confessing this was almost the first Bob Mould tour in Scotland we’d missed in a very long time. In the midst of the first Omicron wave, the original date as part of Celtic Connections in January felt too risky. But with the date postponed and the risk being reduced, we decided to pick up tickets on the official secondary market and accordingly were in place for the show.

There was a degree of novelty as well as this was the first solo show we’d seen Bob play for a long time. Not that we wouldn’t have preferred that he’d had Jason and Jon in tow but at the time of the tour Bob had said he wasn’t able to commit to a full band run due to the risks caused by COVID. (Although the trio have since completed a very short run of shows in the States).

But before Bob, we were introduced to Katie Malco who, given her accent, rather surprised most of the audience by announcing early on that she was a Fifer!

Whatever her origins she came over as a very natural, and chatty (!) performer. Her songs were fairly attention grabbing as well, even when presented as more intimate, solo takes on songs from her debut album ‘Failures’. It was clear quite quickly that she was winning over a significant proportion of the early comers in the audience. Katie’s released alternative versions of some of the album songs and these give a good indication of what the show was like.

This punter certainly would have parted with some cash for a CD of the album had one been available but managed to pick it up on the internet a few days after the show. She’s back with a band in Scotland in November.

Anyone who’s seen Bob perform solo before knows that there’s not a huge degree of difference in the level of intensity he brings to the performance whether playing with the band or on his own. But this still seemed the most intense of the solo shows I’ve seen him play over the years and there was no room for small talk. It was also surprisingly loud, given that there were no drums.

It was all electric, whereas previously Bob has tended to have an acoustic element in the solo shows. The setlist was designed to tie in to Bob’s two most recent releases – the comprehensive solo retrospective boxset ‘Distortion’ as well as his most recent album, 2020’s ‘Blue Hearts’. The result was that the set was slightly more wider ranging in terms of solo material compared to recent band shows even though ‘Blue Hearts’ only got a handful of tunes. Maybe more songs will get an outing whenever the band  resumes touring.

So there were some unexpected selections – ‘Stand Guard’ is an unlikely solo tune at the best of times but even more improbable was a solo version was ‘Black Confetti’ previously sighted as full band psychedelic wig-out, particularly since it didn’t feature on the ‘Sunshine Rock’ tour with the band. (Although it seems to be back again). Bob’s Noughties output wasn’t completely ignored as the set included ‘Walls In Time’ from ‘District Line’ rather than the likes of one time live favourites ‘Circles’ or ‘Paralyzed’. (It would have been too much to ask for ‘Surveyors and Cranes’ – THAT would have been amazing!)

The selection of Hüsker Dü and Sugar songs was fairly standard but it was nice to hear it again ‘Celebrated Summer’ (with all its false endings!) which hasn’t featured on recent tours as much as it once did. ‘Never Talking To You Again’ has also become something of an emotional focus of the set since Grant’s untimely death.

If the songs from Bob’s former bands tended to receive the best reactions, for my money, the solo material, both old and more recent, was just as good. For example, ‘Sinners and Their Repentances’ was fairly raucous whilst ‘Voices In My Head’ (complete with intro and outro from the record) displayed Bob’s talent as a guitarist. Best of the lot for me though was probably a toss-up between Bob’s Swervedriver tribute ‘Keep Believing’ and the fantastic ‘Siberian Butterfly’, possibly his finest song of recent years.

In truth, the set never quite touched the heights that the band can reach (nor indeed the solo Edinburgh show in 2006) but, in current circumstances, it’s easy to understand why Bob chooses to tour in this way. All we can hope is that at some point in the not too distant future we’ll see the trio back on stage together in the UK.