Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Color Me Ecstatic: For 80 Glorious Minutes, The Replacements Show There is Still No Substitute -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

The Replacements
at Riot Fest
other acts seen: The Pixies, AFI
September 15, 2013
@@@@@ (for Replacements)

Precious are those moments in life when you're struck by the realization that there is literally no place on Earth you would rather be at that particular instant than right where you are.

I've been fortunate to have had such a feeling a few times this year, including--a bit incongruously--Sunday night while standing at the back of a muddy field with 35,000 other people and no seating options in sight.

Sadly, my days of comfortably attending standing room only concerts--let alone festivals--are behind me, as though I still love great rock and roll, my legs, feet and back no longer share the romance if I'm unable to sit at least for a bit during a show.

This didn't miraculously change, nor did I expect it to in buying a Sunday ticket for Riot Fest in Chicago's Humboldt Park. There were also acts I love at the festival on Friday and Saturday--Smoking Popes, Bad Religion, Blondie, X, Dinosaur Jr., Violent Femmes--and even earlier on Sunday (Mission of Burma, Bob Mould), and while I would've loved to have seen them, I knew I would regret it physically.

So, truly, the only reason my friend Dave and I got tickets was because of the reunification of the Replacements, at this point specifically for Riot Fest at its three locations (Toronto before Chicago and Denver after).

I caught onto the Replacements in 1987, while in college and inspired by stellar reviews for Pleased to Meet Me, the album after the one I now consider their best--Tim--which itself followed Let It Be, oft cited in Best Albums of All-Time lists.

I whiffed at a chance to see a late-80's Mats--a moniker derived from Placemats, which itself derived from Replacements--show at the Aragon, but saw them open for Tom Petty at Poplar Creek in 1989 and while living in LA saw a show on their final tour at the Hollywood Palladium in early 1991. I was actually in Chicago over 4th of July that year, but with other holiday plans did not attend the free WXRT show in Grant Park that would end with the Replacements breaking up onstage. (I did hear it, as you can here.)

In the intervening years, I've seen singer and chief songwriter Paul Westerberg on various solo outings, during which he would play a few Replacements songs. But though his solo output was solid, even stellar at times--2002's Mono, released under the Grandpaboy moniker, is a highlight--he was a prime example of my The Power of Paul is Greater in Groups thesis.

I'd also seen bassist Tommy Stinson once as a latter-day Guns N' Roses sideman (a bit shockingly, he has been accompanying Axl Rose since 1998).

And given that original guitarist Bob Stinson (Tommy's brother) left the band in 1986 and died in 1995, his replacement Slim Dunlap suffered a stroke in 2012, original drummer Chris Mars either wasn't asked and/or interested in reuniting and his replacement Steve Foley passed away in 2008, this was really only half a Replacements reunion.

But it was good enough for me.

Great even, even if I was no more comfortable standing than during the preceding set by the Pixies (a bit more on that later).

With drummer Josh Freese, a veteran of NIN, GNR and A Perfect Circle, providing a solid backbeat and Dave Minehan sounding strong on guitar, it's quite possible this version of the Replacements is musically superior to the notoriously often-drunk-and-sloppy college radio favorites who never quite made it big.

Although the Replacements opened their 9:15 show a couple minutes early with a couple songs I didn't recognize--"Takin' a Ride" and "I'm in Trouble"--they sounded terrific, as did the outdoor acoustics, unlike for the Pixies, who had played on a stage in an adjoining field.

And once they started rolling through old chestnuts--largely from Tim and Pleased to Meet Me; see the setlist on Setlist.fm--I was rocking out rather demonstrably, in part to supersede some discomfort in my feet. But truly, to quote another legendary band, wild horses couldn't drag me away.

The Mats' take on "Favorite Thing," "Color Me Impressed," "Achin' To Be," "Merry Go Round," "Left of the Dial," "Alex Chilton," "Kiss Me on the Bus," "Bastards of Young" and more were every bit as good as I could have hoped.

Though Westerberg was communicatively-conscious throughout the set of the scheduled festival-ending time of 10:30pm, the band delivered a couple wonderful encores that took them 5 minutes past. Though I was hoping for "I'll Be You," "Hold My Life" was an even better surprise (neither was played in Toronto, though the setlists were otherwise nearly exact) and the show came to a delightfully rollicking end with "I.O.U."

Particularly because at the time finding post-show transportation seemed ambiguous at best--it proved to be a relative breeze--I was fine with just an 80-minute set (that saw 25 songs played), and so were my feet, back and legs. But if need be, I would have happily suffered through another hour of classic Mats material if they had continued to play.

The steady rain earlier in the day turned out to be a blessing in disguise as rather than aim for a Noon or mid-afternoon arrival, Dave, I and another friend got to the Riot Fest grounds at about 7:25pm. We caught a bit of AFI, a band I knew by name only. They sounded good, playing on the stage the Replacements would take over, but were vaguely similar to a bunch of other bands that seem OK but not Earth-shattering.

Though they were a perfect complement to the Replacements as another seminal '80s band with whom the alternative revolution may not have happened, the Pixies were plagued by a seemingly muted sound system, exacerbated by a few songs I didn't know (Pixies setlist here) early in the show.

But though bassist Kim Deal has left the band, Uncle Festerish-singer Black Francis looks and sounds much the same as he ever has, and indie rock gems like "Wave of Mutilation," "Monkey Gone to Heaven," "Debaser," "Here Comes Your Man" and "Gouge Away"--the song Kurt Cobain feared "Smells Like Teen Spirit" too closely resembled--were a pleasure to hear. Ironically, the sound was a lot louder after Dave and I wandered further back and found some softball bleachers on which to sit for awhile.

Taken as essentially a Pixies-Replacements double bill, rather than a full day or weekend extravaganza, Riot Fest was pretty cool, though I have no idea why they had a bunch of carnival rides and midway games, as only concert ticket holders were seemingly let onto the grounds.

But even in a pretty remarkable concertgoing year, one in which I've seem astonishing shows from the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney, caught a Springsteen concert at Wembley Stadium and have greatly enjoyed Soundgarden, Leonard Cohen, Bob Seger, Green Day, Brian Wilson, Fleetwood Mac, Depeche Mode and others, to see another of the greatest rock bands of all time--even if not yet rightfully acknowledged by the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame--for the first time in 22 years, this one made for memories likely to be irreplaceable.  

Here are YouTube clips of "Hold My Life" and "IOU" posted by dephot, from whom you can find nearly a full concert playlist

1 comment:

THULL said...

It was amazing, wasn't it? I had chills...