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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bob Mould @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest

July 3, 2012

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Early '90s nostalgia has been hitting its peak this decade. Newer bands are mining the sounds from the previous generation while the older ones head back on tour to play their hits and cash in on the boom. The biggest record of the period, Nirvana's Nevermind, marked its 20th anniversary last year with a gigantic, special edition remaster. It's notable for being the record that launched a hundred other records, as the popularity of Nevermind spilled over into many other alt-rock bands. One one of these bands was the noisy power pop outfit Sugar and their record was 1992's Copper Blue. It makes sense that Copper Blue follows in Nirvana's path once again. Twenty years later, it's being reissued, as well.

Tuesday night at Summerfest's U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Sugar lead Bob Mould rehashed the album from start to finish in front of an eager crowd that was more than willing to relive the past. However, this evening didn't feel like the cash grab that so many of these reunions end up being. No, it was something more. The annual Fourth of July fireworks banging over Lake Michigan only made it more apparent. This certainly was a celebration.

"I'm Bob Mould and that was Copper Blue," the bald, gray-bearded frontman remarked after ripping through the band's record at such a ferocious pace that their set time equaled the album's length. This happened to be the first time Mould addressed the audience. What occurred just moments before was a sweaty, energetic jaunt of infectious, anthemic choruses and Mould's chugging, distorted guitar. Age may be creeping up on the former singer of the '80s thrashers Hüsker Dü, and he isn't as spry these days, but Mould's enthusiasm on stage effused throughout the crowd.

It helps that these songs have aged graciously over time, too. The night's highlight definitely came from "The Slim." Mould writhed through the slow-burner about losing a friend to AIDS, letting out visceral howls at the song's climax. The pain was palpable. That led into Sugar's biggest hit, "If I Can't Change Your Mind," which the band joyously rendered maintaining all the pomp of the original.

"Can we talk about the future?" Mould asked following Copper Blue's final track "Man on the Moon." It's the type of question that elicits groans from nostalgics and many fans left soon after, but those that stayed were treated with a selection from songs not only from his upcoming album, The Silver Age, but also older material, some harkening all the way back to his Hüsker Dü days. Throw in a cover of Cheap Trick's "Downed" sung by Mould's bassist, Jason Narducy, and the second half of his set was filled with the wonderment that the first 45 minutes couldn't have provided: What he was going to pull out next? It only made sense that Mould played an encore that included "Celebrated Summer," the soaring gem from Hüsker Dü's New Day Rising. Because, as you know, this was a night of celebration.

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