Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Replacements; The Hold Steady @ Forest Hills Stadium

The Replacements; The Hold Steady
@ Forest Hills Stadium
Forest Hills, NY - September 19, 2014

It was a night in an alternate universe, one not unlike the one in "Alex Chilton". Children by the million singing along to performances of songs by a band that last I checked in this dimension, were known by few and remembered by fewer still. And yet, in this parallel world, it felt like a Springsteen concert in almost every sense (and if Springsteen was a little bit Groucho Marx and a lot bit Circle Jerks).

Throngs of superfans in a sport stadium, forsaking that rule about not being that guy who wears the band shirt to the band's concert. The only thing not happening was the tailgate party blasting the band's songs in countdown but that's because there wasn't any place to park (though there was a guy belting out "Unsatisfied" in a bar on the way back to the subway).

To be a fan of the Replacements is to be part of a special kind of band fan club. Like the supporters of a mid-level soccer team that could make the top tier if just a few things went right. Or like the Masons. Maybe more like the Stonecutters. Either way. To convene the New York Chapter of this long recessed association is to bring together all these disparate elements (and incidentally it was pointed out to me that this was also rather inexplicably a GINGERCON of redheads who normally don't go nuts to hardcore punk).

Towards the end of the Hold Steady's typically blistering performance, Craig Finn spoke about the full circle of which we were all a part: As a kid in Minneapolis, his favorite band was the Ramones. He met a guy on a tennis court (just like the giant tennis court we were all in right now). The guy said if one likes the Ramones, then one should check out this local band called the Replacements. Craig did. He then had a new favorite band. And now a childhood dream had come true. Opening for the Replacements. Both at home in the Twin Cities and now again in the Hold Steady's home of New York. Blocks from where the Ramones were birthed. Full circle indeed. And Cosmic. And not just for him.

I got into the Hold Steady when Boys and Girls in America launched them into a the trajectory they've been on ever since, the Ramones as the E Street Band, a style that spoke to me in just the right way at the right time. I played the hell out of that record. And Separation Sunday. And I played the hell out of (most of) Stay Positive. Their set tonight was a statement of where they want to be with us, fans of them and fans together of the Replacements. When they kicked off with "Constructive Summer" and "Hot Soft Light" it was their clarion call to Joy but more than the one they usually signal. "Chips Ahoy", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Stay Positive", "Southtown Girls", and "Stuck Between Stations" were part of the collection, a celebration of what's been and what was to come.

During the time I discovered the Hold Steady, in learning more about them, I of course would read references to the Replacements ("ohhh so that's where Paul Westerberg comes from, he's not just the guy on the Friends soundtrack). "Bastards of Young" became both the primer and the primary. Then one day on the old RXP radio station, the great Steve Craig played "Alex Chilton". That did it. All the records digested in days. The kit as well as the kaboodle - from the mosh of Sorry Ma to the pop of All Shook Down.

And this is what we were given in Queens after the Replacements ran out Broadway style to "When You're a Jet". Doses of hardcore blasts ("Takin' a Ride", "I Bought a Headache", "Tommy Got His Tonsils Out"), country poke gems ("If Only You Were Only", "Waitress in the Sky"), dirty harmonica blues ("White and Lazy"), Power Pop ("Merry-Go-Round", "I'll Be You", "Can't Hardly Wait"), their old penchant for out-of-nowhere covers (Jackson 5's "I Want You Back"), sensible covers ("Maybellene", "Third Stone from the Sun"), off-kilter ballads ("Unsatisfied", "Swinging Party", "Androgynous") and anthems that last a lifetime ("Bastards of Young", "Alex Chilton", "Nowhere Is My Home", "Color Me Impressed", "I Will Dare", "Left of the Dial". "Kiss Me on the Bus" was done in the Tim style, not the demo assault. If had been the latter way, I'd have probably had to leave the premises from hyperventilation from being happy so it's probably better they didn't play it that way.

But who knows what else could have happened? For a lot, if not most, of us this was uncharted territory: a performance by Paul Westerberg. Those of us familiar with the post-Replacements musical world of Tommy Stinson knew what he'd bring to the stage. But Sweet St. Paul is still a cypher. Folksy yet intense, usually more Minnesota Ice than Minnesota Nice, but also a world class showman. With his sharp gaudy jacket (that someone in the crowd not me got to take home, dammit!), we got the Class Clown enjoying the School Day.

There have been plenty of life shaking concerts. It's usually about timing and place as much as the current shape of the bands themselves. 20 year reunion tours in big outdoor stadiums with less than 100% of the original line-ups normally don't have a spot on the list of life shaking concerts. But here come the Replacements again not conforming to the rules. They turned 20 years of hiatus into a grand reunion for some and a fresh start for others. A second chance for those who've seen it all and a first chance for those who've joined the insanity in later years via the records. They turned a tennis stadium into 7th Street Entry but reminded you they could play this size show for this size crowd, for these numbers of fans. Spiritual older brothers to the Hold Steady who themselves are the spiritual older brothers to many of us, the Replacements came to New York and pulled off an incredible trick - they turned the underground into a big party. 

(Apologies to Deer Tick for missing them open the show - I've heard good things - literally good things, AKA songs.)


Post a Comment

<< Home