Twenty years after their last appearance, The Replacements returned to the Hollywood Palladium with two vastly different sets full of wit, chaos, and sentiment.
Formed in Minneapolis in 1979 by singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg, brothers Tommy and Bobby Stinson, and drummer Chris Mars, the Replacements have become the stuff of legend.
Their live shows were notorious for their lack of predictability, where anything, literally, could happen. But whatever happened on stage, it was all about the songs. The Replacements legend was built on their songs as much as their antics.
And now, over twenty years since they disbanded, they are back. The band least likely to reunite played a few festival gigs last year, and is now in the midst of their “Back by Unpopular Demand” tour.
As part of this tour, The Replacements played two nights at the Hollywood Palladium and the sets were vastly different.Â Wednesday nightâ€™s set started with an off-kilter note with “Seen Your Video,” where only drummer Josh Freese was visible on stage, with Stinson and tour guitarist Dave Minehan playing offstage, and Westerberg inside a red tent. This was followed by many earlier, rawer songs: “Takin’ A Ride,” and “Favorite Thing” to name a few, before jumping into the classics that showcased Westerberg’s songwriting prowess.
Thursdayâ€™s show started on a vastly different note, tent-free, with Westerberg and the band taking the stage together for “Iâ€™m in Trouble.” They also got to the hits sooner, playing “Little Mascara” as song three.
The varied set lists were loose and left plenty of room for improvisation, while hitting all the Mats classics: “Kiss Me On the Bus,” “Left of the Dial,” “Waitress in the Sky,” “Nobody,” “Canâ€™t Hardly Wait,” ‘Bastards of Young,” “Valentine,” and “Alex Chilton” were played both nights, as was a new song, a bluesy ode to Whole Foods.
Wednesday night featured a T-Rex medley with guitarist Minehan on lead vocals for “20th Century Boy.” Thursday night was closed with Westerbergâ€™s magnificent cover of the Jackson 5â€™s “I Want You Back.” Thursday night also featured Westerberg playing two songs alone acoustically, his solo song “Ghost on the Canvas,” and “Skyway.”
At the end of Wednesdayâ€™s show, the audience refused to leave. The show was over, the road crew handed out the set lists and drumsticks, and were dismantling the stage, and still, they refused to go. The lights came on and still they refused to budge. A full 15 minutes after the show was over, the audience was still half full of hopefulsÂ cravingÂ just one more hit.
While both nights were incandescent, Thursdayâ€™s show was far superior, not only more upbeat, but at least 15 minutes longer.
Paul Westerberg, brilliant and iconic, still has an element of danger about him. He is the Loki of rock, chaos personified. While these days he is probably not going to go too far off the rails, you are never certain of what he will do next.
Tommy Stinson, who has spent the past 13 years touring with Guns Nâ€™ Roses, was the perfect rocksteady counterbalance to Westerberg,. Newcomer Minehan was a whirling ball of energy, a welcome addition to the crew. Josh Freese has been around nearly as long as Westerberg and Stinson, playing drums for Westerbergâ€™s solo shows in the 90s as well as a laundry list of A list bands, such as Devo, Weezer, Guns â€™nâ€™ Roses and Nine Inch Nails.
Wednesday nightâ€™s show was opened by John Doe, who performed a few X songs in addition to his solo work. Thursday nightâ€™s opener was Together Pangea, who played a brand of melodic punk clearly influenced by the Replacements.