I last saw Bob Mould 19 months ago at The Mod Club, and he returned to the same Toronto venue on Monday night in support of his ninth solo album, Life And Times, a record that I've liked more lately than when I reviewed it in the spring.
It was a short set, clocking in at 60 minutes, with two encore numbers tacked on. But the former Husker Du and Sugar frontman packed lots of goodies into that time. It's just too bad that it looked like less than 250 people (including Polaris Music Prize-winning Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham and singer, songwriter, musician Ford Pier) came out to see the 48-year-old singer/guitarist and his two bandmates: drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk) and bassist Jason Narducy (Verbow). The band played the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in the spring, and this was its second show of the year and first of a relatively short North American tour.
Sugar's "Your Favorite Thing" was an early highlight before Mould played a few Life And Times numbers, including the title track and the lyrically impactful "I'm Sorry Baby, But You Can't Stand In My Light Any More."
Mould then went back 20 years to his first solo album, Workbook, for a terrific "See A Little Light." Narducy then provided effective harmonies on Sugar's "Hoover Dam."
Mould put down his blue Fender Stratocaster and strapped on an acoustic guitar for "Sinners And Their Repentances" and Husker Du's quiet classic, "Hardly Getting Over It."
Things were cranked back up for a blistering version of Husker Du's "I Apologize," but even that didn't rouse most of the statues in the audience. Another Husker Du favourite, "Celebrated Summer," followed.
The encore was composed of "Circles" and a slightly different arrangement of Sugar's "If I Can't Change Your Mind."
While a lot of songs overlapped with the last Mould show I saw, the previous performance had more energy and lasted longer. But I still can't quibble much when a guy has a catalogue as rich as this.
I made my exit, hopped on a couple of streetcars and arrived at the Horseshoe Tavern just in time for the start of Pierced Arrows, a band I knew nothing about but that had been recommended to me by club booker Craig Laskey and Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5, The Baseball Project, R.E.M.) when he was in town to play the same club a few weeks ago.
Pierced Arrows are guitarist/singer Fred Cole and his wife of 42 years, Toodie, who sings and plays bass. They're joined right at the front of the stage by drummer Kelly Haliburton, who looks to be about 20 years younger and is a monster on the kit.
The Coles are probably best known for being in Dead Moon, but Fred's been playing professionally for even longer than he's been married. The happy couple are longtime mainstays of the Portland, Oregon music scene.
Pierced Arrows play a passionate blend of acid punk and garage rock and do it very loudly since Fred is essentially deaf from all his years of playing. The band attracted an audience of about 50 people — including C'Mon's Ian Blurton, the Constantines' Dallas Wehrle and Gord Cumming (The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos, The Lawn, Possum) — but almost everyone there seemed to know and love the material.
Toodie saw the Horseshoe sign on the wall at the back of the stage that said it was founded in 1947 and cracked, "I love it when we play a bar that's older than we are. 1947, that's got me beaten by a fricken year."
Pierced Arrows covered Neil Young's "Mr. Soul" early in the hour-long set, which got better as it went on. New song "Let It Rain," which will be included on the group's forthcoming Vice Records album, reminded me of The Pixies' "Gouge Away" in parts. "Ain't Life Strange" was great and "Paranoia," which is on the other side of a seven-inch single released last year, sounded like vintage Black Sabbath (but not "Paranoid"). Fred played harmonica at the beginning of "Shades." "The Wait" was another highlight of the main set, as were "Frankenstein" and another ass-kicker whose title I don't know in the first encore.
The members of the small but enthusiastically faithful crowd called Pierced Arrows out for a second encore and totally lost themselves when the band played Dead Moon's anthemic "54/40 Or Fight."
"It's like if Hawkwind was a soul band," Cumming said, which was an apt description for some of Pierced Arrows' repertoire.
If you're as ignorant of Pierced Arrows and the Coles' history as I was, or if you just want a great read, check out this recent article on them from Portland Monthly Magazine.