Our heroes with their hero.....before the "Tonight Show" appearance.
Well, here I go again....talking 'bout The Replacements. I may as well devote the blog to them, right? I had the chance to see the "new" Replacements twice this past year (Chicago/Louisville) after having not seen them at all for the first 44 years of my life. I had seen Paul Westerberg four or five times, Slim a couple of times and had a near miss with Tommy with Bash & Pop when my transmission went out on the way to Cincinnati. Fucking Pontiac! Still hurts me.
I've written about not knowing what to expect out of this "reunion" of Paul and Tommy with my "man crush" drummer Josh Freese taking his seat on the throne and Dave Minehan taking over for Bob and Slim on guitar. I then wrote about how my expectations were exceeded by them playing live again. I won't rehash it. I do want to say, now that the announced dates have all been played, that I believe the best thing to ever happen to The Replacements was them "breaking up" some 20+ years ago. They had hit a wall. They weren't going to be a commercial success, Tommy needed some freedom and was growing as an artist and Paul needed to find out if he was really going to be the "voice of a generation". Which he was. It just wasn't the generation that was hanging out at the mall. He was the voice of the loner. The misfits. Those that were awkward in many different ways socially. He was a voice for those that felt alone, even in a crowd. A voice for those that really CARED about the music during an era that changed rock and roll forever. He wrote real alternative music, not the contrived bullshit that became it's own marketable genre off of his and others backs. How the hell can alternative music be played on a mainstream radio station? The point was missed....badly.
A kick ass version of "Valentine", Dave and Josh really let it go.
All that has gone to history now and Paul and Tommy have concluded a journey that has lasted more than a year. They have toured all around the country and played before audiences of 20,000 plus. They didn't have to spend time in shitty hotels and in a van for days on end. It didn't have to become a burden for them personally. I love going to club shows. They are definitely more personal than a festival, but Paul and Tommy had been there and done that. It was time for them to get paid and do it in a comfortable setting on their terms. Bringing in veterans like Freese and Minehan was the right thing to do and it really started to show in the last few gigs they played, particularly on back to back weekends at the Austin City Limits Festival.
If these are the last two shows they ever play, they sure the hell went out on a high note. I have watched both shows, via the magic of a You Tube downloader and DVD creating software. I have to say that they may have sounded tighter at other shows, but they were more like THE Replacements than in any other show I've heard or seen. At times they were a mess. At times they were brilliant. At times they were funny. At times they played with raw emotion. At times they looked like they didn't know what the hell was gonna happen next. They appeared to be totally in their element. Paul Westerberg looked like he was finally in his own skin being who he was born to be. I am probably dead wrong about this, but from a fans perspective it really looked like Freese and especially Minehan had finally reached the status of real band members. I sensed a look of reservation in earlier shows. In Austin they really cut loose and played their asses off! This was a real band. Freese and Minehan can now take their place along with Chris, Bob, Slim, and yes, even Steve. We can call them Josh and Dave now. They are no long replacements for Replacements. They are Replacements. This version of the band wasn't just rehashing the old favorites, this was a band hitting on all cylinders in only the way The Replacements could and in only a way a Replacements fan can really understand.
They didn't phone anything in. They weren't the Rolling Stones playing "Satisfaction" for the hundred millionth time, oh so perfectly, but without passion or attitude! The songs were given life and vitality. They still hold up, they are still relevant, and they still can give this fan a chill. Especially when they are played the way they were created. Ragged glory. Warts and all. Hearing Paul sing "Unsatisfied" with Dave playing with the slide just got to me. I didn't hear it from the perspective of my youth anymore. It didn't lose anything for me. It was fresh and alive again. I hear it as a 45 year old man that can look back on some of his life and still feel "unsatisfied". It's fucking art and not everyone likes it and not everyone understands it, but it's a fulfilling reward if you do.
If this is the last song they ever play, it was a fitting end. Paul put it to bed in way that may only make sense to him.....he trashed his guitar and walked off the stage, with Tommy smiling in the background.
I just don't know if they had stayed together another 5 or 10 years if they would be where they are right now. There were too many swings and misses that wouldn't have happened to shape them into who they are now. We missed them though. Apparently, Tommy and Paul missed each other. What came out of that two decade long drought was an awesome year of seeing these two "alternative/punk" legends reach back into their souls and pull out the music that made them who they are and along with two fresh members, taking their fans, not for a walk down memory lane, but for a full fledged flight of redemption and affirmation. We were right. This was and IS a great fucking band. A real band. I don't see them as Paul, Tommy and two other guys. This is The Replacements. I can only hope they will continue to play once in awhile and possibly record some new music. If not, I think the comeback was all anyone could have ever hoped for. I'll take it and not beg for anything else.
"....and if I don't see you there, in a long long while.
I'll try to find you, left of the dial."
"Left of the Dial" - The Replacements
Some other shit I have written about The Replacements....