Better Than: Most rock ‘n’ roll reunion shows.
The Replacements are a band that contain multitudes. More multitudes than most, rather, with their unorthodox and believable balance of snottiness and romance that pervades their songs. Part punk and part rockabilly, they’re drenched in pop sensibility, making them relatable on all ends and having lyrics that you’re not sure how you know but you just do.
On Friday, the band continued their reunion at Forest Hills Stadium, embarking on their first NYC show in 23 years. For all, it was moving and exciting with no possible differentiation between the fans who had been waiting over two decades and the fans who had been made within those two decades.
Prior to the main event, Deer Tick and the Hold Steady opened. Both bands have the legacy of the Replacements deeply woven into their sonic tapestries, and the Hold Steady made sure to let the audience know how special this show is to them. Lead singer Craig Finn regaled us with a story near the end of THS’s set about a different time on a much smaller tennis court as a teen when he told a friend that his favorite band was the Ramones. The friend recommended he listen to the Replacements if that was the case. The latter would soon become his favorite band, and Finn noted how special it was for him and his band to be opening for the Replacements in the exact neighborhood where the Ramones were raised and formed. There was a sense of kinship in the audience’s response; many probably had similar stories of coming to know the Replacements and similar full-circle moments that brought them to the show. Finn introduced his heroes, and soon, the Replacements thrived on that energy and appreciation.
The Minnesota band previewed their set with the “Jet Song” from West Side Story, a kitschy start to the show soliciting giggles from the audience. The band entered in mismatched, colorful suits and jumped right into “Favorite Thing,” a wild and energetic start that set the tone for the first part of the set, which may have been the fastest and loudest part of the show. Culling the messiest (in a good way) songs from across their discography, tunes like “Takin a Ride” and “I’m in Trouble” were raucous and brash. Slowly, more and more of the romance settled in with songs like “I’ll Be You” from their penultimate release Don’t Tell a Soul.
Throughout the set, a variety of covers were injected like the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Third Stone from the Sun,” Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene,” and the crowd-pleasing Jackson 5 classic “I Want You Back.” The covers were not only welcome surprises but they offered a map of the band’s influences, showcasing the pop, the blues, and the classic rock that has built a solid foundation for their work.
About halfway through, the Replacements fully embraced their ability to be gentle yet incisive. “Achin’ to Be,” “If Only You Were Lonely,” and “Androgynous” sounded massive and beautiful in the tennis court, as did “Swingin Party” and Paul Westerberg’s solo song “Love You in the Fall.” In the same way they can confidently straddle the fence between punk and rootsy rock ‘n’ roll on their records, the band was able to do the same in concert.
Though it’s safe to say everyone in the stadium knew fairly most of the songs well, the appropriately saved end-of-set songs were clearly favorited. “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Bastards of Young,” “Left of the Dial” and “Alex Chilton” were boisterous, and it was impossible to not notice the older sect of the audience acting probably as wild as they did when these songs were released. Westerberg was concerned about the stadium’s curfew, which is 10 p.m., earlier than most venues given the residential neighborhood, so the end felt a bit rushed, though they may have been exalted by the feeling of wanting to savor every last note they played. They left briefly only to return for the obligatory encore, a cathartic and stirring rendition of “Unsatisfied,” the strangely fragile yet scorching anthem of teenage angst. Westerberg and Tommy Stinson are far from those years, settling into the twilight of their legacy and able to reap the benefits of teenage angst that has paid off extremely well, but their performance of a song like “Unsatisfied” still holds the same believability as it did 20 years ago when it was released.
Overheard: “They put on a damn good show!” – a Dad to another Dad
Random Notebook Dump: That night marked the first show of the season where it felt a little too chilly to be experiencing it outdoors. THE END OF A BEAUTIFULLY WARM ERA.
Takin a Ride
I’m in Trouble
Don’t Ask Why
I’ll Be You
Waitress in the Sky
Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out / Third Stone from the Sun (Jimi Hendrix cover)
Take Me Down to the Hospital
I Want You Back (Jackson 5 cover)
Color Me Impressed
Nowhere Is My Home
If Only You Were Lonely
Achin’ to Be
Kiss Me on the Bus
I Will Dare
Love You Till Friday
Maybellene (Chuck Berry cover)
Merry Go Round
All Shook Down
Love You in the Fall
Can’t Hardly Wait
Bastards of Young
White and Lazy
Left of the Dial