Being there for The Replacements Minneapolis homecoming

replacementshmecoming2I spent this past Saturday with an old high school friend in the suburbs of Minneapolis… The trip had been in the works for over three years. It started in early 2011, when I scored two hard-to-get tickets for the big Stooges reunion show at the Michigan Theater commemorating the passing of Ron Asheton. I offered to give one to my friend Dan, on two conditions. First, he had to find a way to get himself down to Ann Arbor from St. Paul. And, second, he had to promise that, if The Replacements ever got back together again for a reunion show in their hometown of Minneapolis, he’d return the favor, and get a ticket for me. And that’s why, on Saturday night, I was crammed into the soon-to-be demolished Midway Stadium, along with 14,000 other diehard Replacements fans, jumping up and down to Takin’ a Ride like we’d just been transported back to the ’80s.

For those of you who don’t know the background, The Replacements haven’t played in their hometown, where they formed in 1979, in over 23 years. Most folks never thought it would happen, but, in 2012, when guitarist Bob “Slim” Dunlap suffered a severe stroke that left him paralyzed, founding members Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson came together to record a four-song EP as part of a bigger fundraising effort. (Dunlap had replaced original Replacements guitarist Bob Stinson in 1987. Stinson, a long time alcoholic, had been forced out of the band in 1986.) So, one thing led to another, and Paul and Tommy decided to reform the band for short tour, which is scheduled to end in Texas next month. The Minneapolis show, where I saw them, sold out in ten minutes.

Here, for those of you who weren’t with me on the field of the run-down minor league ball park Saturday night, is a little video.

I was going to write about the show, but, as the folks at the Star Tribune did such a nice job, I’ll just share what they had to say.

…(M)ostly the new ’Mats just took care of business. Like their 10 previous shows since the first in Toronto a year ago, they opened with a batch of fast, snarling oldies. “Favorite Thing” and “Takin’ a Ride” kicked off the first-round assault, and an all-too-appropriate “Don’t Ask Why” delivered the first knock-out moment.

After switching modes for two melodic, sophisticated late-era fan faves, “I’ll Be You” and “Valentine,” the guys slid back into several more rowdy, gritty, snotty rockers, including “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” and “Take Me Down to the Hospital” — both altered to great effect. The former was stretched out by tacking on a minute or two of Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone From the Sun.” The latter was stretched out by Westerberg either intentionally or unintentionally dropping some of the lyrics, forcing some musical improv that bounced back ferociously.
No surprise that the rockiest rockers were tight, bouncy and wicked, as has been the case at the other shows, with Freese appearing to be the primary culprit. “Left of the Dial” and “Alex Chilton” both came off exuberantly in the encore. What really made the hometown show feel special, though, were the quieter, more introspective moments.

Westerberg sang with unusual tenderness — soft, raspy, sadly beautiful — in the mid-show highlights “If Only You Were Lonely” and “Androgynous.” He once again botched the lyrics at the end of “Androgynous,” but his smile after hearing the crowd fill in the words suggested he perhaps did so on purpose.

There were two more unusually lovely and emotional turns at show’s end, as the band added in two songs yet to be played by the new lineup: “Skyway,” which Westerberg played by himself to kick off the first encore, and “Unsatisfied,” which they saved for the one-song second encore and turned into the most perfect part of the night…

And here are a few photos I picked up by looking around various online fan sites as I waited for my $75 plane ride back to Michigan on Sunday morning. The first one, shot by someone identifying himself as Darin K, shows original Replacements Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson hugging one another.


Westerberg also kissed Stinson midway through their song Kiss Me on the Bus.

Speaking of Westerberg and Stinson, there was only one spoken exchange between the two men that I recall hearing. Early on, Westerberg said something to the effect of, “I’m sorry it’s taken us so long to come back and play for you,” at which point Stinson responded, “No you’re not.”

I was expecting more banter. I was expecting Westerberg to talk more about the early days, perhaps noting the passing of former bandmate Bobby Stinson, who passed away in ’95, or acknowledging that Chris Mars, their first drummer, still lives in the area. Aside from the kissing, there wasn’t a lot of sentimentality, though. The show was still incredible, but they just didn’t take the opportunity to reflect, at least publicly, on this tumultuous journey that they’ve been on. I suspect, however, that went on behind the scenes… The following image was anonymously posted to a fan forum shortly after the show.


Here, thanks to a photographer by the name of Nate Ryan, is a shot of the boys in action.


And, lastly, for all you hardcore fans out there, is the set list, thanks to someone by the name of Caryn Rose.


All in all, I’d say it was a pretty awesome time.

Oh, and I’d like to thank Dan’s wife Jen for driving us to the show and dropping us off in the parking lot, where we’d planned to meet up with some of Dan’s fellow middle-aged high school teacher friends. (It was like we’d traveled back in time a few decades, and his mom was dropping us off for a show somewhere, telling us to be safe and have fun.) And, for what it’s worth, you haven’t lived until you’ve tailgated in a desolate St. Paul parking lot with a few high school English teachers and a guidance councilor.

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  1. Posted September 16, 2014 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    I can’t imagine going so far to see a show. You must be famous.

  2. D.
    Posted September 16, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Some Replacements’ lore from a Magnet interview with Paul.

    Our Band Could Be Your Life, critic Michael Azerrad’s recent book about the American underground-rock scene in the ‘80s, devotes a chapter to the Replacements, wherein Bob Stinson’s then-wife Carleen accuses Westerberg of shoving a bottle of champagne in Stinson’s face during one of the guitarist’s sober periods and giving him an ultimatum: “Either take a drink, motherfucker, or get off my stage.” I mention the book to Westerberg. “Yeah, I might have skimmed it,” he says, and before I can bring up the particular incident, he cuts me off: “You mean page 229? The key phrase is her saying, ‘It’s the only time I ever saw Bob cry.’ Well, I saw Bob cry 96 times—I think that says a lot about his relationship with that woman. I’ve said this before: It wasn’t the liquor that tore the band apart, it was the women.”

    A few weeks after the incident in question, Stinson was fired, and in the hearts of most charter Mats fans, this was effectively the end of the group. Stinson would go on to achieve local bar-band glory with Static Taxi and the Bleeding Hearts, generally having a good time all the time. He died in 1995, at the age of 35. “I heard the coroner’s report said, ‘He wore himself out,’” says Westerberg. “I saw Bob two nights before he died. I was returning a video, and he was on his way to the liquor store. He gave me this look like, ‘You wanna come with us? We’re going back to my place to get high.’ I was sober by that point, but for a second, I almost went with him. It was sad, but you knew it was coming. From the day I met him, he spent his days getting fucked up. That never changed. I really loved the son of a bitch. Any time he asked me to buy him a drink I would empty my pockets for him. But I didn’t like his guitar playing. I wanted to get rid of him from day one.”

  3. Anonymous Mike
    Posted September 16, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Aging rockers cash in. There’s nothing wron with that. Let’s not romanticize it though. It’s not like they came back home to play a free show in their old neighborhood. They came back to fill their wallets.

  4. Mr. X
    Posted September 16, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    As flawed as Paul may be, I suspects he’s easier to work with than Axyl Rose.

  5. Kristin
    Posted September 23, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Did anyone else sing “kiss me on the butt” when that album first came out? No? Me either.

  6. EOS
    Posted October 7, 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    One of the pictures in this post now nearly completely covers all subsequent posts on one of my computers. Is it intentional?

  7. site admin
    Posted October 7, 2014 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    I’m glad to know that we’ve finally been able to hack into your home computer, EOS. All your tubes now belong to us.

  8. D.
    Posted June 1, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    During the Replacements’ reunion tour over the past two months, Paul Westerberg has worn a white t-shirt every night with a letter spray painted onto the front and back, spelling out two different sentences with each side. Fans have pieced together the message that he’s been subtly sending out, which will be completed after their two shows in London this week. According to the Facebook page Paul’s Shirt, the message reads: “I have always loved you. Now I must whore my past.” (The last word could also be pain — we’ll see for sure in a few days.)

    It reads like a sort of apology for the reunion tour, which makes sense given the attitude that seems to be coming from the Replacements camp. A Billboard article from a few days ago cites a source close to the band that says their reunion may be short-lived. The band debuted a few new songs live throughout the tour, but reports say that time in the studio didn’t result in much, and the band announced that it was canceling two make-up shows that were scheduled for next month. All signs seem to point to a quick dissolution for the band, though a different source also told Billboard that they would just be “taking a break” and that this is a “natural progression of things.”

    Only time will tell, but so far the last Replacements show that’s on the books is next weekend at Primavera Sound.

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