Certainly one of the year’s most pleasant surprises, ex-Husker Du leader Bob Mould’s new band Sugar played its L.A. debut Friday and managed to live up to the considerable pre-show expectations.
Sugar’s first album on Rykodisc, “Copper Blue,” has been at or near the top of every major alternative sales and airplay chart for most of 1992.
Mould’s slashing guitar and unique tenor mixed brilliantly with the very pop-aware song arrangements, which particularly shone on the punkish “Hoover Dam” and “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” a song notable for its Social Distortion-like intro. The set smelled like punk spirit, which is what Mould’s fans have wanted.
Sugar’s set also included a handful of unreleased songs, most likely destined for the next album. The best of the rest was “When Diamonds Are Heroes,” sung by bassist David Barbe, whose voice provided an interesting and effective contrast to Mould’s.
Although Mould is a bit aloof on stage (the only time he spoke was to chastise the security people), the excitement generated here promises better things to come.
Second-billed Throwing Muses was less enthralling. Though guitarist/singer Kristin Hersh possesses a hypnotic, subtle vocal intensity, most of the Sire recording artists’ songs were boring, both in their over-simple arrangements and their stiff delivery. Opener “Manic Depression” by Jimi Hendrix was the one noteworthy performance, Hersh displaying a rather impressive guitar skill.