There are plenty of people who will tell you that this current – unbe-fucking-lievable – Replacements reunion isn’t really a reunion. Original guitarist Bob Stinson died in ’95, replacement guitarist Slim Dunlop is sidelined after a stroke, his medical bills the catalyst for this whole shebang, and drummer Chris Mars is nowhere to be found. Their are people who can tell you that no Replacements reunion can live up to the Minneapolis band’s legend, a band who would play shows so drunk they couldn’t finish their own songs or would only play covers. A band who would be shit two out of three shows, but be the best band in the world on that third night. They might be right. But as a 32-year old who came-of-age in a post-Mats world, this night was everything I could have asked for.
The fervour Mats fans have for this band is kind of indescribable. You have to live with their music for a while for it to really get under your skin, but once it does, whoa-boy, you’re hooked for life.
Rapt anticipation awaited the quartet – singer-guitarist Paul Westerberg, bassist Tommy Stinson and fill-in drummer and guitarist Josh Freese and David Minehan – as they took the stage. “We’re going to play some old shit,” said Westerberg, decked out in an oversized suit jacket and smirking the whole night, before the band ripped through “Takin’ a Ride.” “I’m in Trouble” followed, then “Favourite Thing.” The band, who’ve been in rehearsals for a couple months, walked the thin line between tight precision and sloppy mess, proving that the Mats’ signature sound was less calculated anti-rock stance and more natural playing style. Paul forgot the words part-way through “Androgynous” letting Tommy take the lead for a minute, and the two men seemed genuinely thrilled to be playing these songs together again. Freese and Minehan on the other hand appeared simply thrilled to be part of the event as they held up their end of the music with aplomb.
Some songs did drag a tad, while others were burned bright with the searing anti-authoritarian attitude that birthed them. The band engaged in a bit of audience fuckery, covering Chuck Berry and Sham 69 when they could have been playing someone’s “favourite song ever.” But that’s all part of the Replacements experience, part of being a fan of this band, isn’t it?
Their set ended with a series of winners. “Swinging Party” was apparently requested specifically by Dunlop. A horn and stringless “Can’t Hardly Wait” was spine tingling and “Bastards of Young” was the teenage anthem the mid-30s skewing audience always believed it to be.
After a short break, the band returned to the stage, Paul sporting a Montreal Canadiens’ jersey and middle fingers before launching into… “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” from
the Broadway musical Gypsy. Finally “I.O.U.” and its telling screed of “Want it in writing/I owe you nothing” closed the night (there was a 10pm curfew).
You could complain if you really wanted to; they didn’t play enough of their early hardcore material, they skipped classics like “Unsatisfied” and “Skyway,” the were too sloppy, they weren’t sloppy enough etc, etc. But really, in 2013, we got all we could reasonably want from a Replacements reunion. The band have two more shows scheduled. What will become of the Mats after that? Who knows. But one thing’s for sure. Now they really do owe us nothing. – Ian Gormely
The Replacement’s Tommy Stinson @ Riot Fest
The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg @ Riot Fest