Bob Mould – Katie Malco – The Mill, Digbeth, Birmingham – 12th June 2022
One of the founding lights of both U.S Hardcore and Alternative Rock as it exists now, Bob Mould, finally gets to bring his solo electric distortion and Blue Hearts tour to the UK this month and Fighting Boredom were at the Mill in Birmingham to see it. Throw in support from singer songwriter Katie Malco and the evening is highly anticipated, read what we thought below.
The Mill isn’t full, it’s maybe two thirds or a half full at the time Bob Mould comes on. That’s, as he says, ‘Not bad for a Sunday night.’ but positivity aside both of these artists deserve a bigger crowd. But then, people have jobs to go to and babysitters to arrange so perhaps a Sunday is trickier than other nights. The crowd is made up of, pretty much people over at the very least twenty five. There’s a lot of grey hair, a lot of smiles and a lot of people that know what’s what. They may have seen the Huskers, they may have seen Sugar or they may just have seen Bob but they know. But before Bob there’s Katie.
The stage is lit in blue and Katie stands tall in a denim jacket and jeans, she plays a high sweet clear guitar sound and sings in a sad voice, she builds a delicate spiders web of a song that draws the crowd in. Less is more in this music.
Between the songs she comes across as slightly nervous, she tells us how sick it is to tour with Bob Mould, giving the impression that she can’t quite believe it. Then she plays a new song. It’s got a lower guitar sound and a strong vocal but still gives the impression of fragility. ‘
Not all of my songs are about love, some of them are about death, this one’s about death, asserts Katie and the gentle emotional music gets gradually harder and her vocal gets stronger. It reminds me of the feeling of Throwing muses and those 4AD artists around that time when I was young. Not so much the sound, but the feelings behind it. The feeling of beautiful, delicate strength. Then she plays a cover of Cloudbursting which is just perfect even if, as she says, she’s fucking everywhere now. It has always taken courage to cover Kate Bush and her namesake tonight nails it.
Her next song sounds like an English rainy, cloudy sunset in the hills of the north. Beautiful but sad. There’s a vulnerability to the set that shines through the music and chat between the songs. The crowd of mostly old punks take to her. There’s no talking and very little flicking through phones as she plays. She has them, if you listen to the music you’ll know why. She remarks again about Bob and seems genuinely surprised to be here with him but this set shows how much she deserves to be here. She tells us about the badges she’s brought with her that say I’m a failure and that they are selling like hot cakes then is shocked when someone shouts about having a tattoo of it. She sings a song about insomnia that she describes as a curse with rich guitar and a high vocal and then finishes with a song called Brooklyn. Which starts slowly and delicately but finishes loud and strong. It’s an excellent set by someone that I’ll make a point of seeing again.
Bob Mould almost runs onstage, he strums his guitar and launches immediately into the first song. Loudly, he moves around the stage as he always does and I’m smiling already. No one plays guitar like Bob, no one gets that sound and his voice, on the verge of cracking with emotion, takes you far away into it. He doesn’t pause for more than a couple of seconds before launching into Flip Your Wig and the greatest punk band on the planet is right there in your face. He pummels the guitar, destroying any resistance to this glorious sound. It’s emotional as everyone sings along as these songs mean everything to a lot of us. The photographer walks over looking shell shocked, he’s as into this as I am. The songs are pure distilled anger and youth. We know what has come from them, the bands that owe a debt to this music.
He’s alone on the stage, just him and an electric guitar. He should I suppose look vulnerable as there’s only himself up there but it looks like the opposite, he looks like he’s having the time of his life. Sugar get a blast too, Hoover Dam is as immense as the structure it’s talking about and then it’s back to the start of his solo stuff and See a Little Light. The sound is getting louder and more distorted but that’s par for the course with Bob, it takes nothing from the beauty of the songs. He comments that it’s ‘Not bad for a Sunday Night’ and then he’s off again counting himself in and the songs just keep coming. He’s all over the stage, shouting at the audience, smiling as he plays, grinning at the recognition of his music and grimacing through the emotion, it’s instinctive with him, two years of not performing and he’s back again with this glorious, emotional fire. The crowd are transfixed as he plays the songs with his whole body. He can go from sad and bringing you to your knees to ice cold anger without thinking, it’s just what he does.
Then, for me, the song of the night is Hardly Getting Over It, a song about sacrifices, life hurting and carrying on even if it’s the hardest thing in the world. Anger, love, regret and life distilled into one song. Hate Paper Doll gets a little smile at the end. It’s joyful to hear this set. He takes it from emotional alternative rock o raging full on hardcore at the drop of a hat and you know what, it’s all good. Sunshine Rock, If I can’t Change Your Mind, and Bob counts another one in. He’s not feeling like much talking tonight, he thanks Katie for opening and then ‘No talking, just playing’ he says. He gives no quarter, especially for himself and gives us a brilliant show. He finishes, as ever, with Makes No Sense At All, and with that the night is perfect. Bob bows and the applause goes on and on. Brilliant.
You can catch Bob and Katie on the rest of the tour on the dates below
16th London Islington Assembly Hall
17th Nottingham Rescue Rooms
18th Stoke-on-Trent The Sugarmill
20th Bristol Thekla
22nd Oran mor Glasgow
23rd Newcastle Riverside
24th Liverpool Arts Club
25th Leeds Brudenell Social Club
27th Cardiff The Globe
28th Chester The Live Rooms
30th Belfast Limelight 2
1st July Dublin Whelan’s
All pictures by Martin Ward, all words by Adrian Bloxham