Husker Du translated "New Day Rising," one of the year's best rock albums, into a terrific live show at the 9:30 club last night. The Minnesota trio's accomplished musicianship and emotional risks transformed the standard elements of hard-core punk into something inspiringly new. Punk's pell-mell sense of everything let loose at once was undiminished, but Husker Du counterbalanced the hyperkinetic beat with an undercurrent drone, creating a tension, an irony, that is new to punk.
The band's excellent players maintained punk's fast stomp but replaced the usual 4/4 staccato rhythms with rolls and syncopation. With his flying-V guitar slung low on his sweat-drenched T-shirt, Bob Mould played sparkling lead guitar breaks that fit snugly into the rushed beat. Bouncing about the small stage, Greg Norton worked melodies and rhythmic shifts into his bass lines without slackening the pace. Tossing his shoulder-length hair to this side and that, Grant Hart hammered out a physical drumbeat and sang his compositions in a voice that was more intimidating for not screaming. Even better were Mould's vocals on his compositions, especially the heartfelt "I Apologize," where he reflected the frustration of wanting so much more than you can pull off.