Review and photos – Grant Hart at the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, June 15 2011
– review by Shawn Conner/photos by Robyn Hanson
We couldn’t have been at the Biltmore Cabaret more than five minutes last night before someone threw a bottle at Grant Hart.
Hart, who is fated to forever be known as a former member of Husker Du first and a solo artist a distant second, was playing a solo electric show, and turn out was petty abysmal. Probably at least part of the reason was that the show fell on the last night of the Stanley Cup Final, partly because Husker Du fans are now middle-aged and mostly settled down. And it’s not like the Minneapolis post-punk’s music is suited for Pixar features or iPod commercials or anything else that might bring the Minneapolis pop/punk trio to the attention of a new generation of fans.
Anyway, never mind the turnout, which couldn’t have been more than 40 people, almost entirely guys. The fact is, Hart dared to admit between songs that he was glad the Bruins won – that he’s been a fan for a long time. That’s when a moron on the dancefloor let fly a beer bottle, which seemed to strike Hart’s guitar.
“What? My fans like hockey so much they’d throw a bottle?” Hart asked good-humouredly as he spent the next couple of minutes tuning up. Never mind that he was American, and from the Midwest, so naturally he’d have more allegiance to the Boston hockey team, and that he said this as non-provocatively as possible; it was still too much for one idiot – who didn’t even have the luxury of a crowd in which to hide.
My point being, that hearing apologists on the radio this morning – I’m looking at you, Rick Cluff of the CBC – claim that the rioters last night in Vancouver “weren’t hockey fans” made me cough up my Cheerios.
Anyway, now that I’ve got that off my chest…
Hart’s set was as good as a Husker Du fan could expect without a full band backing him. His plaintive, tremulous voice was in fine form as the ponytailed fiftysomething ran through many of the contributions he made (Bob Mould was the band’s other singer/songwriter) to Husker Du albums like Flip Your Wig, Candy Apple Grey and Zen Arcade.
“Sorry Somehow”, “Green Green Eyes”, “Keep Holding On”, “Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill”, “Books About UFOs”, “Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely”, “Never Talking to You Again” – the set was one shoulda-been hit after another, and took this reviewer down memory lane in a “Flexible Flyer” (another Hart/Du composition). The songs still sound fucking great, too; stripped-down and raw, they were a reminder that Hart and Mould were writing some of the best punk-pop songs of their era, songs which would influence The Pixies, Nirvana, and everyone in between.
Hart was more than willing to take requests too, even following “the incident”, including personal faves “Now That You Know Me” from his first (and ironically titled, now that I think of it) album Intolerance, and “She’s a Woman (and Now He is a Man)”* and “Charity Chastity Prudence and Hope” from Husker Du’s 1987 swansong double album, Warehouse: Songs and Stories.
The only disappointing notes of the show were the low turn-out and, of course, the idiot with the bottle. But Hart, a true professional, handled it well.
“I’ve fucked tougher than you,” said the musician, who has come out as bi. The smile he gave left no doubt that this was true.
*Outside the Biltmore, after the show, I asked Hart – sharing a joint with some fans – about the inspiration for that song. He said it was about having a child with a former girlfriend, and that the kid, a boy, was recently up on charges of attempted murder! “I should’ve been around more,” Hart said (or words to that effect) ruefully.