As such, when Paul Westerberg drafted 'Hoods frontman David Minehan into his first post-Replacements touring band for the 14 Songs tour in 1993, it was pretty much a match made in heaven for this little Ohio boy. I saw the band in this video play at Peabody's Down Under in Cleveland, Ohio, on that tour and it was pretty much a top-20 all-time live show experience. Westerberg & Minehan were blazing, trading guitar leads back & forth like it was their first band in the garage when they were 14 years old and rhythm section Darren Hill & Jim Reilly rolled right underneath 'em like a fine Persian rug. Were they a better live band than The Replacements? Damn straight they were. (blog note: I mis-identified Jim Reilly as the drummer of this band, see Comments section at the end of the blog. It was actually Josh Freese.)
Folks, you can believe who you wanna believe, but I saw The Replacements live in their prime and they were always astride a line between brilliant and embarassing ALL THE FUCKING TIME! The first time The 'Mats (as I never called them) played Columbus, Ohio, I was standing next to local musician, raconteur & tastemaker (and ex-member of 80's indie favorite Great Plains) Ron House at a club called Stache's. The first 20 or 30 minutes of the show the band was a drunken, shambolic mess; nobody seemed capable of finding and/or keeping the beat, despite the herculean efforts of drummer Chris Mars to keep 'em on track, guitars were woefully out-of-tune, lyrics were forgotten or mumbled unintelligibly, or both, and some tunes didn't end as much as subside. I remember very clearly Ron asking the musical question, "These guys are the best live band in America?" (as we had been led to believe by fanzines and Spin magazine, which constituted the "alternative" rock press of the day).
And then, amazingly, almost miraculously, The Replacements slammed into "Take Me Down To The Hospital," and it was one of the most incredible pieces of rock & roll I have ever seen in my life. For that threee minutes the band was The Who, The New York Dolls and The Sex Pistols all rolled into one. And they followed that with the most unbelievably spill-your-guts-on-the-stage version of "Unsatisfied" you would ever have been privileged to hear. It was mind boggling. Ron and I literally stood there with our mouths hanging open. It was like an entirely different band had taken over the stage, like those four Midwestern boys had been possessed by the ghost of Keith Moon, by the very Spirit Of Rock & Roll. They were fantastic. And then, just as quickly after those two songs, they went right back to the chaotic mess they had been just three songs earlier.
They peaked at least twice more that night, pulling it all together into rock & roll masterpiece territory and then running right back off the rails into first-rehearsal noise. It was one of the strangest rock shows I have ever attended. And it was pretty much like that the rest of the times I saw them live while Bob Stinson was in the band. When Slim Dunlap came in they became less schizophrenic but never played with any real fire again. And a more professional, tamed, merely servicable Replacements was not really what we were looking for, was it?
So say what you will 'Mats fans, I'll take Westerberg, Minehan, Hill and Reilly live over that band anyday.
inspirational verse; "A dream too tired to come true / Just a rebel without a clue / Searching for something to do" - Paul Westerberg, 1989 (years before Tom Petty ripped off the line "rebel without a clue" after The Replacements opened a Heartbreakers tour).
© Ricki C. 2012