I’ve always thought those discussions about the preference over Bob Mould or Grant Hart’s post-HUSKER DU work a little frustrating. I mean, both individuals output has been impressive. I loved SUGAR but I also loved NOVA MOB. With regard to the solo albums, both have released a body of work that has been equally stunning and occasionally bewildering.
With that taken into consideration, I kinda surprised myself with the realization that this is the first time I had seen GRANT HART post HUSKER DU, compared with at least a dozen MOULD experiences. Would old ‘Golden Tonsils’ Hart live up to his former colleague and sparing partner in a live situation? Without a doubt, he did.
The night got off to a shit start though - and that is through no fault of any band. I travelled up to the gig on the Intercity Bus Service. It was due to arrive in Auckland at 7pm. Doors opened at 8pm. First band on probably around 9pm. That’d give me two hours to get from the bus station, grab some food and get to the gig. However Intercity fucked up royally!!
The bus left an hour late and somehow, the driver (that’s a broad statement - he seemed to have his handbrake on the entire way and actually apologised for his lack of pace as he, "had to get used to the gears - they're all a bit different you know!") managed to add yet another hour on the drive. So, I arrived at 9pm and by the time I got to the gig only caught the last five minutes or so of LOUD GHOST.
And that’s a shame as they seemed to be cranking out some seriously damaged sounds fusing something like the rock ‘n’ roll drenched sound of (early) GUN CLUB with the intensity of BIG BLACK. Given I only saw a fragment, that could be way off the mark but it was an impressive quagmire of noise for a few minutes.
Auckland’s own BLACK SCIENCE was up next and cranked the jams with some seriously fuzzed guitar lines, catchy songs and some disjointed, splintered beats. Big comparison has to be MUDHONEY with a bit of LEMONHEADS, SONIC YOUTH and MC5. No idea about song titles but the trio put on an enjoyable set, even if some of the guitar histrionics went a bit overboard at times.
Somewhere during the interval following the BLACK SCIENCE set, Grant Hart appeared at the left of the stage dressed in a brightly flowered shirt, wide braces, hobo jeans and stunning red shoes. Somehow, he looked cool as fuck too.
|Grant Hart Conspiracy|
His latest band, THE GRANT HART CONSPIRACY, is a four-piece consisting of what appears to be pretty seasoned musicians and, from the opening, ‘Back From Somewhere’, it was clear that Hart had amassed some solid players around him. It was also clear that this was gonna be a ‘Best Of Hart’ type set with the following songs being ‘2541’ and a spine-tinglingly magical ‘Diane’ - which proved he still has those Golden Tonsils albeit ones that broke occasionally.
From there, the set spanned HART’s entire career with particular highlights being ‘Pink Turns To Blue’, a set-stealing ‘You’re The Reflection Of The Moon On The Water’, ‘Now That You Know Me’ and a ringing version of ‘The Last Days Of Pompeii’. A number of songs from his recent album, ‘The Argument’, were featured too, with ‘Morningstar’ being particularly effective.
It was good to hear he remains outspoken. One point toward the end of the set saw him state that we should, "remember to tip the bar staff." A rather bellicose member of the audience shouted, "FUCK OFF," - Grant then chastised him and it appeared the gig maybe over. On another occasion, he requested that cat owners ‘meow’, followed by dog owners ‘barking’. The analogy was that if ‘some musician’ from Minneapolis could get a crowd on the other side of the planet to make animal noises that easily, imagine what Donald Trump could do en masse. Yes, it was rather simplistic - but so are those that follow Trumpton.
Another notable point was that HART possessed the ability to stop the band a few bars into a song and with a matter of three words, lifted the song to another height. That usually indicates an egotistical rock star; here it showed someone who actually knew how these songs work best. I have say the guitarist was particularly good too - he could do the droning tone of HUSKER, add some subtle lead work that appeared simplistic but created added depth, and enhanced the songs with some understated backing vocals.
After 90 minutes or so, the band finished. The house music came on - only for HART to return and do another half-hour with just his magical voice and guitar. Highlights?? Have to say - every song performed this evening left me in awe but this solo set saw some jaw-droppingly magnificent takes on ‘Admiral Of The Sea’, a set-closing ‘The Main’ and ‘Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely’.
And then it was over. For the first time in many years, my ears were ringing viciously. That was compounded by the fact that the sound was the best I’ve ever heard at the Kings Arms. I had a very amicable chat with the man and his guitarist before walking back on a massive high, grinning like some kinda long-haired, Punk Rock clown.
So - did HART match MOULD live? Ohhh yes.... I probably have to say that this gig transcended Mould’s bluster and I sensed that with the set of songs performed here, I’d witnessed a genuine songwriting maverick - someone on par with Dylan even.
Yeah, that’s a massive statement but, three plus weeks since the gig, one I still believe.
NB: If anyone has a song-by-song set list, please let me know