"Casual" would be the perfect word to describe Bob Mould's show at Shank Hall Tuesday night.
An older, battle-tested crowd warmly welcomed Mould, dressed in a simple T-shirt and jeans. Armed with a 12-string acoustic guitar, Mould opened with "Wishing Well," from his 1989 solo debut, "Workbook. "
Without a band backing him up, his well-crafted chord structures took center stage. There is nothing flashy about "Wishing Well" or "See a Little Light" (also from "Workbook"), but Mould's passion for his music is the only dynamic necessary. Few modern day musicians could get away with this setting, but Mould pulls it off beautifully, effortlessly strumming one song after another.
Not many players of Mould's stature give their fans an opportunity to witness a show like this, and the crowd was genuinely appreciative. Adding to the laid back atmosphere, Mould tuned his guitar continuously between songs, and bantered with his fans. At one point, he asked, "Has anything changed since I was here a year ago?" When a couple commented they had a new child, Mould extended his congratulations.
Mould chose an eclectic set list, drawing heavily from his "Workbook" album. This is probably because it is Mould's most stripped down, acoustic album. Mould seemed to know the crowd wanted his solo tunes, but he did not disappoint Husker Du fans, bringing out the somber "Hardly Getting Over It," from 1986's "Candy Apple Grey."
Soon after that, Mould ditched his acoustic and brought out a blue and white Fender Stratocaster. It was here that Mould displayed his still-prevalent rock and roll edge.
Starting off with "Circles," from his new album "Body of Song," Mould completed the last half of the show plugged in. Even without a band, Mould still commanded the attention of everyone in the room, stomping his foot and looking genuinely into it. The crowd responded in kind, with building applause as the electric section continued.
With "Paralyzed," another new tune, Mould displayed his lead guitar abilities. Minus a backing band and banging away at an electric guitar, Mould could have been in danger of coming off as cocky, like any random shredder trying to impress at a local guitar shop. But Mould seems to have a genuine love for his art, and besides, his lead guitar skills are more colorful than showy. They fit the song's context, bringing it to the next level.
After the show, Mould conducted an impromptu meet-and-greet with his fans. Happily conversing and signing copies of his albums, he seemed to enjoy the experience. Humble and engaging, Mould is hardly a spoiled, reclusive rock star. He understands his place as a rock star, and plays the role nicely.
Opener Peter Searcey was an added bonus, plucking away at an acoustic guitar and singing smooth, ambient compositions. He was a perfect warm up, playing for about 30 minutes. He knew who the people paid to see, and obliged.