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To Hell With The Replacements

By Casey Moffitt in Arts & Entertainment on May 2, 2015 7:00PM

photo via The Replacements' Facebook page

The Replacements took the Riviera Theater stage on Thursday night—the second of two sold-out shows—and delivered a performance full of sloppy guitar playing drenched in attitude and topped off with a big spoonful of nostalgia.

Founding member Paul Westerberg reunited with Tommy Stinson two years ago and started playing shows under The Replacements' name. It's been so successful that they've managed to milk it for a couple more tours. We'll see where it goes from here.

Unfortunately, the show we saw didn't rise above any level other than pure nostalgia. The Replacements now have aged to the point where you could call them dad rock. Granted, it's cool dad rock as opposed to square dad rock—one quick glance at the crowd gathered at the Riv solidly cemented that status.

For those who were there, they probably saw a few faces they hadn't seen in a while and were able to share the experience of seeing Westerberg and Stinson play the great, old songs from The Replacements catalogue, which is great and all. It's just too bad The Replacements couldn't offer a riveting performance to match the good vibes of the crowd.

The band played a lot of the crowd pleasers like "Bastards of Young," "Kiss Me on the Bus," "Waitress In the Sky" and "Can't Hardly Wait," among others. They delivered the 90-minute set with a casual flair and without any real sense of urgency: Nothing was added to the tunes; nothing was taken away.

The only wrinkle was a new "song" called "Whole Foods Blues," which was as selfish as it sounds. It's not so much a song as a blues jam with Westerberg griping about the health food store and the lack of customer service he receives there. It was a real snoozer.

Westerberg was his salty self, mumbling into the microphone between songs. When the band launched into "Alex Chilton," he found it appropriate to duck into a pop-up tent that was dragged onto the stage, so he couldn't be seen while the song played on. It was a curious gag that didn't add anything to the performance.

Attitude is fine to project from the stage, but it has to be backed up. You can get attitude for free any day by calling the alderman's office. At The Replacements show, you had to shell out $60 for it.

Westerberg just doesn't play like he's got the chops to match the attitude. He still can sing the songs well, but his guitar playing was a mess, along with that of fellow guitarist Dave Minehan. Together the pair dropped chords, hit the wrong notes and missed beats. Some of the solo work was downright laughable.

This though plays back into the pure nostalgia aspect of the show. The Replacements didn't wow audiences with their chops back in the day. They enjoyed playing poorly in front of people and often did it intentionally. So if The Replacements barely give a shit about their performance, why should any of us?

Saving graces were drummer Josh Freese who is a machine, and Stinson who played well, too. They worked well together to construct a solid, driving beat that was inescapable. Almost anything could have been played over that beat and still sounded good. Almost.

For die-hard fans of The Replacements, it was a chance to see the band run through their catalogue so they could sing along with Westerberg. For casual fans, or those who enjoy professional musicians performing like professional musicians, there wasn't much for them.