As a fresh-faced teenager, on Monday September 23rd 1985 I nervously handed over my £3.00 ticket and walked into the tobacco haze of Stow Hill Labour Club in Newport (Wales), to witness my first live American punk band, a trio from Minneapolis in Minnesota, the then mysteriously named Hüsker Dü.
The room was already packed and sweating by the time they took the stage and hurtled through their underground hits such as ‘Flip Your Wig’, ‘Makes No Sense At All’ and ‘Hardly Getting Over It’. Bob Mould sawed at his Ibanez flying V, Greg Norton pogo’d with the bass, and Grant Hart whipped his hair along with the kit.
Thirty plus years later, some grainy photos and a review I penned in the first issue of my zine Artcore in early ’86 is all I have to remember it by, so as Bob, like an old friend, stepped on stage with his current trio, I wondered if he’d dip a toe into that thirty year old set.
Maturing years have not stolen any of the urgency from this Land Speed Record contender, as he opened the set with two classics from the Sugar era; ‘A Good Idea’ and ‘Changes’, before rattling through a handful from the upcoming, and last couple of Mould albums, such as ‘The Descent’ and ‘Voices In My Head’.
From here, it was straight into the big Sugar hit of ‘If I Can’t Change Your Mind’, which kicked the audience up a gear. Another handful of recent tunes followed such as ‘Hey Mr. Grey’ and ‘Kid With the Crooked Face’, before three more Sugar songs including ‘Hoover Dam’ sent the crowd reeling.
The eighteen song set was then brought to a close with one of my favourites from ‘Beauty and Ruin’; ‘The War’, then two Hüsker outings; an electrically-charged version of ‘Hardly Getting Over It’, and ‘Chartered Trips’ from their hardcore era conceptual classic ‘Zen Arcade’ (and as I’d just been talking to a guy who’d called his record label ‘Newest Indüstry’, this just left me wanting to hear ‘Something I Learned Today’).
The band promptly took their leave of the stage, but the crowd knew what to expect with heightened applause, and the trio were soon back on the boards for a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ for bassist Jason Narducy before the expected encore pay-off of Hüsker Dü classics.
‘Flip Your Wig’ was followed by ‘Hate Paper Doll’, and an unexplained cover of Generation X’s ‘Your Generation’, before a rendition of the Hüsker cover of ‘Love Is All Around’, just so we all knew that the A-Side was coming, and yes the Dü hit ‘Makes No Sense At All’ brought with it that sense of intended completeness.
Twenty four songs down, I headed for the door to avoid the rush, and as I stepped out into the cold night air, I wondered if it had occurred to Mr. Mould that three of the five Hüsker Dü songs he’d picked to play, had been in his set thirty years ago, no more than 12 miles down the road.
I guess I’ll never know, but it stands testament to good songwriting that whatever the mileage, some old tyres just refuse to go bald.
Welly | Artcore | 11th February 2016