Live Review: The Replacements at the Hollywood Palladium (4/16)
Explaining the importance of The Replacements, of going to their first non-Coachella southern California concerts since 1991, of getting blasted by 100 minutes of originals, covers, and even a new song, of seeing a reunion that was one of music’s most hotly demanded and deserving of skepticism, is, well, tough. The Minneapolis outfit is hard to be on the fence about, where the vast majority of people that encounter them subscribe religiously or discount completely. They are a band not just about songs or albums, but about where you were when you heard them, what the songs meant to you growing up (or what they still mean to you now that you have). It’s not surprising that the coming-of-age ’90s film Can’t Hardly Wait took its name from a Replacements song, as the band provided the soundtrack to generations of real-life coming-of-age experiences, and will continue to do so for further generations.
With all this in mind, maybe the most satisfying thing about how The Replacements have reformed and toured over the last couple years is how sacred the band realizes their work is, how highly they let it be held, and how special they have tried to make it for their fans. The shows have been limited to a few festivals a year and one-offs here and there, with this new run, dubbed as the “Back by Unpopular Demand Tour,” being the most legitimate touring cycle since the group’s reformation in 2012. Because of the scarcity of these shows, the band was able to sell out the two nights at the Palladium in Hollywood on Wednesday and Thursday, with the atmosphere of the room on the second night electric with anticipation. The predominantly male, predominantly over 35-years-old crowd were beyond excited to see the band they likely thought they never would, forming huge lines at the merch stand, and nearly all with beers constantly planted in their hands. They came for a good time and received exactly that.
And for their part, The Replacements, featuring two original members in frontman Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson, with two pro fill-ins in drumming legend Josh Freese and guitarist Dave Minehan, tried and succeeded in making the evening feel special. You didn’t need to look further than the big, goofy grins on opening act together PANGEA to understand just how fortunate all involved, from the (quite good) support to the fans, felt to be there. The Replacements get this and play to it, leaning on the beloved hits but also scattering in rarities, with Westerberg performing a couple songs solo and acoustic, and even getting a crew member to storm the stage for a trombone solo in “Can’t Hardly Wait”.
The commitment to the show also came in terms of setlist, with 29 songs ranging from the band’s earliest work to Westerberg’s post-Replacements solo material in “Ghost on the Canvas”. Westerberg even led the group through non-setlist surprises, a couple covers of “My Boy Lollipop” and “I Want You Back”, all playing polished, revealing the band to be a well-practiced machine, capable of going off-script and still sounding like it was all part of the master plan. These shows aren’t just thrown together; they are something The Replacements clearly take very seriously.
The setlist additions seemed to be penance for a couple weird, amusing technical mishaps. During “Bastards of Young”, the entire second verse featured Westerberg’s guitar strap coming loose and a roadie struggling to reattach it while the singer tried to keep up with his parts. On “I’ll Be You”, Westerberg’s microphone stand got loose, and the height slowly retracted, with the singer performing some of the song on one knee. But these all played like charming goofs, paradigms for why the band is so likable in the first place, how their mistakes could be seen as attributes when looked on as a whole.
The concert’s best moments were the expected ones. “Valentine” saw the band gel into a loose and beaming unit, creating a state of euphoria in the audience. Even Stinson noticed, chiming in that they had “finally gotten that one right after a year of practice.” And while Westerberg still needed a few smokes to get through the set, he didn’t lie about the maturing aspect of the band, speaking about how they used to drink all day and now spent the afternoon at the gym. Even the new jam they performed was a goof about shopping at Whole Foods Market.
The completion of growing up, of coming of age, is part of The Replacements’ appeal at this point. Seeing a reckless band of 50-somethings would be flat-out depressing, but seeing a surviving band channeling their youthful energy for a night is inspiring. And on that, it created a context for the timelessness of “Alex Chilton”, “Left of the Dial”, and a dozen of the other songs The Replacements played. If the question was posed as to why The Replacements were so special to so many people, their performance was the definitive answer.
The Replacements’ set list:
I’m in Trouble
Kissin’ in Action (Snippet of “Iron Man” (Black Sabbath))
Color Me Impressed
Love You Till Friday
Maybellene (Chuck Berry cover)
Take Me Down to the Hospital
Waitress in the Sky
Achin’ to Be
Kiss Me on the Bus
I Will Dare
Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out (Snippet of “3rd Stone from the Sun” (Hendrix))
I’ll Be You
Whole Food Blues
Can’t Hardly Wait
Bastards of Young
My Boy Lollipop (Barbie Gaye cover)
Ghost On The Canvas
Left of the Dial
I Want You Back (The Jackson 5 cover)