While the Replacements had a reputation back in the day for unpredictable performances consisting of half-finished covers and drunken renditions of their own material, Saturday was all business in the best possible way, with the group delivering an absolutely stellar performance from start to finish, on a day officially proclaimed earlier in the evening by the Mayor of St. Paul as “Replacements Day.”
On this reunion outing, original members Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson have been accompanied by associates Josh Freese (the Vandals, Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle) and Dave Minehan (Westerberg solo, the Neighborhoods). They led the capacity crowd through ballads, covers, out-and-out rockers and raucous sing-a-longs.
“Tommy Got His Tonsils Out” would segue into Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone From The Sun.” “Take Me Down to the Hospital” from 1983’s Hootenanny was followed by a brief cover of “I Want You Back” by the Jackson Five. “Love You Till Friday” (Sorry, Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash) careened into Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” -- and then out of it, and then back into it once again.
True to their reputation, there were fits and songs that ended more abruptly than planned. At the end of “I’ll Be You,” Westerberg would note that they had sound-checked that song, only for Stinson to add, “We played every chord but that last one.” But these glitches were the exceptions rather than the rule, and the band was focused and determined for the majority of the performance.
While it wouldn’t be a Replacements show without a healthy dose of self-deprecation throughout, none of the joking could overshadow what was a phenomenal outing for the band -- at home in front of friends, family and the fans who gave them their start. Westerberg was in excellent voice and his guitar work was strong and on point. Stinson was always a showman, even at age 13 during the band’s early years, and his time with Guns N’ Roses has only solidified his chops, and he would be the one affectionately giving Westerberg his cues all night.
Drumme Freese shares the same essence as original drummer Chris Mars (who declined to be part of the reunion outing), in that he is always solid and on, interpreting Mars but also getting the important bits -- like the syncopation in “Kiss Me on the Bus” -- just right. And guitarist Minehan is the perfect guitar foil for Westerberg, who can pick up anything the frontman throws at him, play every other note, lead or classic run, and hit the horn licks in “Can’t Hardly Wait.” Both Freese and Minehan play the material with care and respect, and every single member of the band had huge smiles on their faces all night.
Earlier in the evening, Memphis’ Lucero and Minneapolis neighbors the Hold Steady opened the show with strong sets notable for high energy and obvious fanboy-style affection. Ben Nichols of Lucero greeted the crowd, saying, “The Hold Steady and the Replacements? We’re just glad they let us join the party.”
Craig Finn of the Hold Steady would introduce his band by, saying, “I’ll spare you the hysterics but for a guy who grew up here this is literally a dream come true,” and after the band’s last song (“Southtown Girls”), announced with a large grin, clearly pleased to be able to say, for the first time in his career, “The Replacements are next.”