“How the hell do you know this band?” is how I was greeted when I reached my seats for the Replacements show at Forest Hills Stadium. It’s a fair question, since I was not yet alive when they broke up. Funnily enough, it was my second time seeing the Mats, since I traveled out to Chicago last year to see them and recently departed Guided by Voices at Riot Fest, but instead of trying to explain all that to inebriated fellow fans, I just said, “’cause they’re the best!”
They were certainly in top form that night in Queens. Original members Paul Westerberg (guitar and vocals) and Tommy Stinson (bass) are joined by session drummer extraordinaire Josh Freese (original drummer Chris Mars is now an artist and chose not to participate) and guitarist David Minehan (original guitarist Bob Stinson, Tommy’s brother, has sadly passed). Minehan and Freese have played with Westerberg on and off since the Mats broke up, and the chemistry between them (and Stinson) is palpable. While the band was originally known for a lovable ramshackle quality, these experienced musicians (plus Stinson’s added experience playing in Guns and Roses for several years) give the songs a lot of punch.
There was a healthy heaping of tunes from their early punk years (“Takin’ A Ride,” “I’m in Trouble”), a good amount from the bonafide classics Tim and Let it Be, and a dip into the later years (“I’ll Be You,” “Merry-Go-Round”). Plus, there was a Westerberg solo song that Stinson played on called “Love You in the Fall” (which was especially brilliant in the late summer night), and later a surprisingly killer cover of Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back.” Westerberg forgot some words to a few songs, but the crowd was more than happy to sing them in his place.
Reunions are rarely this good or this fun. Let’s keep this thing going, guys.
– Layne Montgomery