The Workbook days, apparently, are over. Though Bob Mould set out on tour to support the reissue of his first solo album, his Thursday night SXSW set revealed an artist tired of looking back and ready to move forward – as loudly as possible.
Cellist Alison Chesley is gone, leaving the essential power trio of Mould, bassist Jason Narducy, and drummer Jon Wurster ready to rock and roar in the crowded, sweltering Parish. Perhaps the Workbook shows were too low-key, because the triple punch opening of “Star Machine,” “The Descent,” and “Keep Believing,” all from 2012’s superior amp-frier Silver Age, was an explosion of energy and, from the smile on Mould’s face, joy.
Palate thus cleansed, Mould treated the room to nine tracks from his upcoming June release, Beauty and Ruin. From major-key power poppers to a slow and heavy accusation in the Black Sheets of Rain mode and some jackhammer punk tunes that recall mid-period Hüsker Dü, Mould and band sounded confident and prepared. While nothing ventured outside of his wheelhouse, like John Fogerty, Mould does himself better than anybody.
Sprinkling in a few of his usual classics placated the nostalgia-mongers, but the crowd seemed happy to bop to the new tunes. A fine set, marred only by an apparently crazed lighting operator determined to blind the audience.
“Thanks for letting us work out the new tunes,” Mould told the crowd.
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