All photos via Instagram
In the world of Paul Westerberg—the brilliant, gut-wrencher of a tunesmith who represented all of us losers in his band, The Replacements—we are all chumps. Our beloved Paul didn’t mumble and slur those words from the stage (“You paid so we came,” he reportedly said at their recent Minnesota homecoming show) but he might as well have as he and his cohorts-in-fuckup-crime, Guns ‘n’ Roses bassist Tommy Stinson, guitarist Dave Minehan and drummer Josh Freese (the reconstituted “Replacements”), scorched through their classic opener, “Favorite Thing.”
"I don’t give a single shit!" goes the refrain Westerberg whoops and hollers from that barn-burning riffer off the Replacements' 1984 underground/college-rock defining touchstone, Let It Be. In this reunited version, Paul really doesn’t give a rat’s ass. He could care less about the thousands upon thousands of old-as-fuck- (including my ancient ass) ‘mats fans who trekked out to Forest fucking Hills in Queens, New York, eager to revisit the sloppy-assed-punk-rock-raver tunes and righteous loner introspections—the soundtrack to pathetic youth that should have made Paul rich and famous.
Now twenty-three years after the ‘mats originally bowed out, Westerberg is finally cashing in, and fuck it, it's well-deserved for this 54 year-old grizzled mofo. For the geriatric throngs who shelled out 60 bucks a ticket (tack on another 15 bucks in “service fees”), it was an aging indie rock enthusiast’s dream. Deer Tick were missed (sorry, on too early) but we rolled into the rotting stadium at 7:45 p.m. and The Hold Steady were already putting the finishing touches on their set. Shit. Enter The Replacements: 8:25 p.m.! Despite the September chill, our creaky bones as we stood and sat on our asses with obligatory beers in tow, and the very small pogoing and crowd-surfing pockets in front of the stage, lovable loser Westerberg gave us what we came for. After “Favorite Thing” was “Takin a Ride” (following the “don’t give a single shit” theme here?) and did Paul ever take us for a ride.
For those mouthing along to Westerberg’s prophetic and poetic outsider-looking-in anthems, word-for-word in fist-pumping glory—and those who were actually weeping (come on, this isn’t fucking Neutral Milk Hotel—the perpetually goofy and primped Paul beautifully muffed up lyric after lyric, classically botched the shit out of “Left of the Dial” (quintessentially ‘mats) and murmured indecipherably (drunkenly? Let’s hope not, he quit the booze years ago) the whole way through. If Paul was trying to recapture the beautiful sloshfests and relentless barrage of Replacements concert lore, this was a work of art.
There was the shitstorm hijinks and seamless rapport between Paul and Tommy, as the ever-endearing ass-clown bassist ranted aimlessly about taking a spill and busting up his nose on Amtrak getting to the show—before the elder statesman shushed his disciple up in time to rip into a horde of ‘mats classics, like “Love You In The Fall.” You know, the hooky, empty-headed rocking theme to that kid’s cartoon, "Open Season"—the type of riffer Paul writes in his sleep. Westerberg put an abrupt end to that fuckery (“this one’s better,” Paul proclaimed) before breaking into the orgasmic salvos of one-two punchers, “Can’t Hardly Wait” and “Bastards of Young.”
As thousands of graybeards, balding folk and Paul and Tommy-idolizing ladies shouted in unison to “Bastards of Young”’s monumentally chorus of disconnected loserdom, "We are the sons of no one," converged in sing-alongs to bluesy takes on gender-bender testimonial “Androgynous” and loner screeds “If Only You Were Lonely” and “Nowhere Is My Home,” our smirking, rasp-throated hero ate it all up and spit it out.
Once upon a time, Westerberg’s holier-than-thou wordage was—and still is for a certain faction—the loser language of the Amerindie rock land. Thirty-odd years have passed since Westerberg put his godhead stamp on those seminal records that became the music nerd’s salvation. But as Westerberg and company steamrolled through incredible song after incredible song—fittingly in front of upwards of fifteen thousand adoring fans at an unlikely venue in Queens—the success that eluded him in his Replacements heyday is finally in the rear view mirror. It’s high time he gets to bask in this glory, and it doesn’t matter much if he gives a shit or not.
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)
Take Me Down To The Hospital
I Want You Back (The Jackson 5)
Color Me Impressed
Nowhere is my Home
If I Only You Were Lonely
Achin’ to Be
Kiss me on the Bus
I Will Dare
Love You Til Friday/Maybelline (Chuck Berry)
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