The Replacements – [Live]

Monday, 26 August 2013

"Here's a story,” said Paul Westerberg during the reformed Replacements' performance at Riot Fest in Toronto, “Sitting on the stairs of the bus and I pass a paper over for a signature. James Osterberg writes back, "I owe you nothing" and hands it back to me. I think, "There's something there. I'm gonna use this.”

And with that The Replacements launched into "I.O.U," the last song of their triumphant reunion show last night at Fort York, closing out the last day of Riot Fest. That James “Iggy Pop” Osterberg and the Stooges had gone on before The 'Mats that evening was clearly not lost on singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg.

The return of The Replacements – some twenty-two years after they took their last bow on stage in Chicago –  was met with equal parts trepidation and excitement. There were 'Mats shirts all over the place at Riot Fest; not just the ones being sold on the band's merch table, but people had old-school, homemade 'Mats shirts on, shirts from old tours, Westerberg solo shirts. If a T-shirt alone could be seen as a sign of support for a band, August 25, 2013 was The Replacements' day, but the support didn't end there. During their set, Dinosaur Jr. mentioned the 'Mats from the stage, with Barlow saying how big an influence they were on the band. The Weakerthans mentioned it was crazy that they were on the bill as well. The show of support for The Replacements was in the crowd and on the stage, and it was just astounding to see.

But what would the bottom line on the show be? Every fan knew in advance that the verdict would be out until the band took the stage regarding which band would show up. Would it be the ramshackle 'Mats who barely remembered their own songs? Or would it be a more refined, stately band looking to right any wrongs done in the past to their audiences?

Luckily, The Replacements – singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson with replacement 'Mats Dave Minehan (guitars) and Josh Freese (drums) – came armed with a set which had a bit of both of the group's faces in it. The band kicked off the set with a blistering one-two punch of "Takin' a Ride" and "I'm in Trouble" and continued to work seamlessly through their career with nary a few seconds to catch their breath.

That beginning had the hearts of longtime fans held dearly, but the going just got better as The 'Mats played what amounted to a dream set list for the die hard 'Mats fans. They mixed classic, shoulda-been hits like "Can’t Hardly Wait," "Color Me Impressed," "Alex Chilton" and "Bastards of Young" with deep cuts like "Favorite Thing," "Little Mascara" and "Wake Up” along with covers like "Borstal Breaking” (Sham 69) and "Everything's Coming Up Roses" (from the musical Gypsy), and that every song was met with rapturous applause, full sing alongs and the largest mosh pit filled with over 35-year-olds I've ever witnessed (on a Sunday night no less!), speaks to the undying passion and intensity of 'Mats fans. That all the bands from earlier were on the side watching gave the show a sort of surreal sensation too; you could see Barlow and J Mascis watching on the side of the stage, fans as much as those on the ground were .

They played “Androgynous” on what seemed like a whim. With fans already howling in appreciation, Westerberg asked, "Any requests? 'Androgynous'? Gonna sound a little stiff without the piano, but okay, here we go" and it sounded stellar. Even when Westerberg flubbed lyrics (and there was more than one occasion) a laugh from Stinson and a nod from Westerberg were all part of the charm.

A little later on, prior to launching into "I Will Dare,” Westerberg – who has been a near recluse of late – dedicated the song to "anyone who was dragged here tonight against their will. Maybe someone told you 'Get out of the house, it'll do you some good!' This song is for you… and for me!" It was a beautiful, perfect end to a set that most of the people in attendance never thought they'd see, and those who were there will treasure because, other than just two more scheduled reunion shows (in Chicago and Denver respectively), nothing is planned; in what could only be called typical Replacements fashion. As great as this show was, both those fans who made it to Riot Fest in Toronto and those who missed it as well as those with tickets to the other two dates won't be satisfied; The Replacements have restarted something here, now all we can hope is that Westerberg can be coaxed out of his house again sometime soon.

Takin' a Ride

I'm in Trouble

Favorite Thing

Hangin' Downtown

Color Me Impressed

Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out

Kiss Me On The Bus


Achin' To Be

I Will Dare

Love You Til Friday

Merry Go Round

Wake Up

Borstal Breakout

Little Mascara

Left of the Dial

Alex Chilton

Swinging Party

Can't Hardly Wait

Bastards of Young

Everything Comes Up Roses


Further Reading:
Ground Control Magazine – The Replacements – [Discography review]  


Click here for a list of The Replacements' upcoming dates.

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