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REVIEW: Honoring Bob Mould At Disney Hall

Michael Juliani |
November 22, 2011 | 5:18 p.m. PST


via Wikimedia
via Wikimedia
The acoustics in Disney Hall: it doesn’t get much better than that. Not that they were all that necessary for the Bob Mould tribute Monday night, where the likes of Spoon’s Britt Daniel, some of The Shins, the band No Age, comedian Margaret Cho, Craig Finn and Tad Kubler of The Hold Steady and one of the best drummers alive Dave Grohl paid electric (loud) homage to the Hüsker Dü/Sugar/solo hardcore god, covering many of his songs in a rotating cycle on the stage.

Ryan Adams made perfect use of the acoustics, as is his wont, with a tri-colored guitar and two Mould solo songs with a voice that made everyone feel thin and lift off the ground a little bit.

The Disney Hall people regrettably remind everyone the policy against taking photographs before, during and after the show, but in the end, it didn't matter. The lights focus on the stage during the show so each flash from the crowd has a really high profile. Ushers get dispatched with walkie-talkies from the nearest pavilion entrance to try to seek out the perpetrators.  However, the most they do is ask you not to do it again.

The Hall, though accustomed to this stiff mode of conduct belonging to the high-brow strings of the L.A. Phil, seems like a nearly perfect place to hold a rock tribute show on a weeknight.

You’re expecting something really stripped down with a lot of rock star personal statements about when they discovered Bob’s music and how it saved their adolescence and/or kept them from dying a couple times. They gave us some of that.

Craig Finn waxed on being a Minneapolis local getting turned on to Hüsker Dü and The Replacements. He sang swinging his arms like a child throwing a fit, pointing at the audience, droning powerfully through Hüsker Dü and Sugar songs with Kubler on guitar.

Margaret Cho took advantage of the mic to talk about seeing so many Mould shows over the years, many of which were ones he talked about in his recently released autobiography See a Little Light. She read the book in London when she was going through a lonely time because the English “don’t know that [she’s] a big star.”

Britt Daniel talked a bit about becoming friends with Bob in Austin when Spoon was just getting started. He said he had the book but hadn’t read it yet.

Grohl has touted Hüsker Dü throughout his career, once saying in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, “No Hüsker Dü, no Foo Fighters.”

Ryan Adams said about three words to the crowd, looking (as always) like a pissed-off teenage boy in slightly ill-fitting clothes. The crowd cheered loudest for him—“I love you Ryan!” from a couple women from different corners of the Hall.

He seemed really focused on the task at hand. He set a piece of paper on the ground at his feet that might’ve been lyrics (Cho needed a lyrics sheet also), sometimes needed for cover songs that must be perfect in front of an audience that “knows every word, every note,” according to Cho.

After the songs, during the applause, Adams mumbled “Thank you for having me” and left stage before the MC could interview him in front of everybody, which is what he did for all the other performers.

Mould himself appeared for the first time right before intermission. He came out to play a song or two with the two guys from No Age, an L.A. art/noise/punk band that Mould personally likes a lot too.

The drummer said he first met Bob in a food court in Barcelona, hobbling over to introduce himself on crutches he needed for a busted leg (which must've hampered his drumming a bit at the time). He said he didn’t believe Mould when he said that he loved No Age. B

ob Mould looks really nothing like a hugely influential punk rock musician (at this stage of life). Dressed in simple blue jeans, a green polo shirt that showed his considerable biceps, and what appeared to be running shoes, he strapped on a blue guitar and shredded. His vocals were spot on for the punk songs with melody he’s written since the 80s. He sort of wobbled around his concentric side of the stage.

After intermission—“Go to the bathroom, come back in fifteen minutes,” Mould told us, and the lights came on—we got the best part of the night.

Dave Grohl came onstage and got interviewed a bit about meeting and writing a song with Mould (“Dear Rosemary,” off the Foo’s latest album Wasting Light, which he said is one of his favorite songs that he’s written). Grohl said that after “ripping him off so mercilessly for so many years” he was worried that Mould might take the “fuck you” stance against him.

“Or he could just be Bob, which he was.” Grohl played guitar with Mould and Mould’s band, really killing it for a few songs, and then kept his guitar vibrating while walking behind the drums to hand it to the drummer who strapped it on and relinquished his set’s seat to Dave. Everyone brightened.

Grohl pounded away on “I Can’t Change Your Mind,” face down, hair bouncing, completely cool. He left the stage to great applause and Mould addressed the audience after catching his breath a bit.

He talked about how his “strange” childhood left him with the anger needed to write all those songs that put him in the position to be honored like that at Disney Hall, how it’s all a cruel joke. “I’m not good at stuff. I’m getting better at it,” meaning dealing with life things other than music, like talking to crowds and explaining himself and driving and doing laundry, all that. “I’m only really good at what I just did with Dave for the last fifteen minutes.”

He mentioned seeing producer Butch Vig backstage and recalling how he was on the list to produce Nirvana’s iconic album "Nevermind."      

Mould played several Copper Blue songs and had everyone (except for Adams, who probably left early) back onstage to sing the closing number “See A Little Light.”

Grohl put his arms around the two guys next to him and went behind the drums and pounded his fists in the air behind the drummer. Imagine affirming your life that way onstage performing your hero’s songs with your hero and ten other great, passionate musicians.

Mould basked in the dimmed light of the empty stage, applause around him like fog. He seemed to be saying a prayer of thanks or meditating for a moment because he nodded his head and looked up and waved goodnight, his face full of meaning. He walked off and the lights came up and everyone with their tattoos and sweaters and high leather boots left the Hall smelling like slightly expensive deodorant.

Outside on the corner of 1st and Grand people were talking about which songs they’d been listening to since they were teenagers in Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere. “I’ll go to a show where he plays anything Sugar,” a guy told his friend. The posters advertised upcoming orchestra shows. My cab driver home commented that he thought it was weird that there was a show on Monday night.

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