About seven years ago, singer-guitarist Bob Mould decided that playing rock music in a band just wasn't working for him anymore. Whatever the reasons for that decision, they were temporary. Friday at the 9:30 club, Mould was back playing rock music with a band, and it worked just fine.
During the period before his latest album, "Body of Song," Mould incorporated more electronics into his music, and performed live accompanied only by backing tracks. Synthetic timbres haven't been banished from the Washington-based musician's current style, but they weren't conspicuous Friday night. Keyboardist Richard Morel added techno embellishments, notably to the intro of "Hoover Dam," but they were overwhelmed when the band was at full roar. Bashing through such '80s favorites as "Makes No Sense at All" and "See a Little Light," Mould's current quartet sounded a lot like his previous overdrive-pop trios, Husker Du and Sugar.
That doesn't mean Mould is merely retracing his steps. His 9:30 set showcased some new material and a more upbeat attitude, as well as the powerhouse drumming of Fugazi's Brendan Canty (replaced by club co-owner Seth Hurwitz on a version of the Monkees' "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" that concluded 30 minutes of encores). One small but crucial innovation was the singing of bassist Jason Narducy, whose pleasant voice shadowed Mould's raw one, underscoring the vocal melodies. Their vocal interplay alone was a strong argument for Mould's decision to take some company with him on the road this time.
-- Mark Jenkins
Emily Haines and James Shaw are among the 17 musicians listed as members of Broken Social Scene on that Toronto indie-pop band's new album. But they also have another, much more aggressive facet. They're the leaders of Metric, a new-wave-goes-hard-rock quartet that headlined an all-Canadian triple bill Saturday at the 9:30 club. Indeed, the band proved a little too aggressive in performance, overpowering the melodies of the catchiest songs on its fine new album, "Live It Out."
While Shaw swamped the tunes in guitar noise, vocalist Haines alternated between playing keyboards and executing robotic dance routines so over-rehearsed that she might have auditioning for a heavy-metal mime troupe. She punctuated each song with repetitions of an identical move, most theatrically during "Empty," in which she did the same hip twist and hair flip every time she sang the refrain: "Shake your head / It's empty."
A few such taunting lines were all that was audible of the band's social critique, which was mostly submerged in the din. Oddly, Haines ended the set with a plea to the audience that undermined its Generation-Y premise with a classic-rock reference. After asking fans if "we can just be your band," she sang a bit of a song their parents would know, Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall."
Preceding Metric, the Most Serene Republic defined its sound mostly with keyboards and vocals but occasionally unleashed the drums and guitars. Even during its most arena-rocking moments, the Toronto sextet was still basically playing chamber pop, so its set-closing flourish was a most sedate rave-up.
-- Mark Jenkins
When Brazilian singer-guitarist Badi Assad took the stage barefoot, wearing flowing green pants and a peach-pink vest-scarf, one thought crossed my mind: She probably has a cat.
But on Friday at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center's intimate Joseph and Alma Gildenhorn Recital Hall, Assad proved she's much more than a flower child. The 39-year-old with a huge shock of curly black hair is also a stunning fingerstyle guitarist and an eccentric singer in the Bobby McFerrin mold.
When she wasn't awkwardly turning U2's "One" into a bossa nova or, more successfully, blending her own "Viola Meu Bem" into a tango-tinged take on Bjork's "Bachelorette" -- all from her new CD, "Verde" -- Assad came across like the Ani DeFranco of Rio de Janeiro on tunes like "Naio Naio" (where she imitated the sounds of monkeys and birds), "In My Little White Top" and "Nao Adianta." Most appealing were the instrumental songs "Waves," "Valse d'Amelie" (the theme song to the film "Amelie") and "Interrogando," because Assad could show off her remarkable facility on acoustic guitar. Her fingers flew across the frets and nylon strings, stretching out to construct improbably expansive chords or play lightning-fast arpeggios.
Assad doesn't excel just at traditional Brazilian guitar. She also played African thumb piano on the delicate "Feminina" and prepared guitar on the gorgeous "The Being Between," jamming a drumstick under the strings to make it sound like a Japanese koto. The latter tune also all but confirmed my suspicions: Near the end of the song, Assad leaned toward her guitar and gurgled to it in that unmistakable baby voice people use to talk to kitties.
-- Christopher Porter
Brazilian singer Badi Assad played the guitar stunningly well, too, Friday at Clarice Smith Center.