ZILKER PAR, AUSTIN, TEXAS
FRIDAY OCTOBER 10 – SUNDAY OCTOBER 12, 2014
By Brian Wise
They came. They saw. They conquered. Oh, and they seemed to be having fun.
The Replacements arrived on the Samsung Galaxy stage just after the clouds departed and sundown approached late Sunday and proceeded to stamp their mark on the Austin City Limits Festival in one of the most powerful and riveting sets that I have ever seen at any festival.
The burgeoning crowd might have been waiting for Pearl Jam, the next act on that stage – and Eddie Vedder later acknowledged the Mats’ mighty set – but in just one hour The Replacements created an indelible impression and made every other band on the bill sound kind of anemic.
The Replacements might have seemed like dinosaurs to most of the younger audience members but they arose from the primordial rock ‘n’ roll swamp and stomped everything else out of existence on their fifteenth and final US gig of the reunion tour.
It might have been a lucrative comeback but Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson have lost none of their edge on stage: they swaggered, they exchanged pleasantries (Stinson:‘What have we got next Grandpa?’), they taunted (Westerberg played two songs in a hammock!) and they did what a truly great band should do, they inspired the belief that rock ‘n’ roll is more than a corporate marketing tool.
The band arrived on stage after Gene Vincent’s ‘Who Slapped John?’ faded from the PA and then they truly transported the audience back in time, opening with a fiery ‘Alex Chilton.’ (I suspect most of the punters had no idea who they were singing about).
Over the course of the next hour Westerberg and Stinson ploughed through 18 songs – mainly at breakneck speed – assisted by drummer Josh Freese and guitarist Dave Minehan (filling the shoes of Chris Mars’ and Bob Stinson/Slim Dunlap).
As the set wore on the band seemed to get even tighter as they stormed through ‘Left Of The Dial,’ ‘Kiss Me On The Bus,’ ‘Bastards Of Young,’ ‘Takin’ A Ride’ and ‘I’m In Trouble.’ Two surprises were Chuck Berry’s ‘Maybelline’ and Billy Joe Shaver’s ‘I’m Going To Live Forever’ (‘I love that song,’ said Westerberg).
Apart from ‘Alex Chilton’, two other highlights stood out. A brilliant version of ‘Can’t Hardly Wait’ featured a pause that seemed to go on forever before a crashing ending.
The final song ‘Unsatisfied’ seemed to sum up Westerberg’s ethos (‘I’m so unsatisfied, I’m so dissatisfied’) as he smashed his guitar before stalking off.
But Westerberg and Stinson could hardly be unsatisfied with this reunion. In the end most audience members would have thought they were watching the reunion one of the world’s most successful bands (not one that barely ever managed to scrape the charts).
In 1989, Musician magazine ran a feature on The Replacements titled ‘The Last, Best Band of The 80s.’ It might easily be reworked now as the last best American band of the 20th century.
There were other things on offer last night at ACL, including Pearl Jam and no disrespect to that band but it would have been impossible to match The Replacements.
If Australia’s biggest music festival The Big Day Out returns next year the first band organisers should book is The Replacements!
Tomorrow: Full ACL Weekend 2 review.