After ending their 22-year hiatus and triumphantly returning to the stage at Riot Fest last year, the Replacements had marked Coachella as the next step in their long-overdue comeback. The legendary Minneapolis post-punk collective may have been listed in the second-biggest font on the 2014 Coachella bill, but their performance on Friday night (Apr. 11) produced a staggeringly small crowd at the Outdoor Theatre, where artists like Lorde, Pharrell Williams and Lana Del Rey are scheduled to play later this weekend.
Only a few hundred festival-goers watched Paul Westerberg and co. perform their first show in California since 1991, and perhaps as an acknowledgement of the low turnout, Westerberg slathered all of his commentary with a fresh coat of bitterness after taking the stage at 8:45 PM.
“Well, hello,” the singer-guitarist announced, striding out in a suit and bow tie. “There’s been a lot of good music today, huh? We’ll put a fucking stop to that right now.”
From there, Westerberg continued to toss out non sequiturs in between songs, most of which were met with disengaged silence from the attendees. He stumbled through the beginning of “Androgynous,” complained about his buzzing mic stand and lazily asked the crowd to help pick the band’s song choices. As the set wore on, more crowd members wandered away from the stage, perhaps to catch Girl Talk on the main stage or get ready for Zedd’s massively packed performance in the Sahara Tent. By the time the Replacements wrapped, about half of the audience that had seen the start of the show was still standing.
As problematic as the band’s audience interaction proved to be, the Replacements actually put on a tight, well-produced breakdown of their discography. Westerberg still has his snarl as a frontman, and injected songs like “I’m In Trouble,” “Psychopharmacology” and “Favorite Thing” with still-potent intensity. Meanwhile, Tommy Stinson’s bass work was sharp, while Westerberg would occasionally clench his eyes shut during his own guitar solos. The final portion of the performance found Westerberg freed of his suit jacket and bow tie, dropping the banter altogether and just trucking through the songs in front of him — which proved to be an effective strategy. With no chatter surrounding them, songs like “Bastards Of Young” ended the performance on something of a positive note.
Westerberg hinted during the show that the Replacements’ performance at the second weekend of Coachella will include a revamped setlist. Hopefully next Friday night will also include a more enthusiastic crowd as well, before the band heads out for scattered festival dates later this year.