The Replacements at Riot Fest Denver

24 Sep

 Review and Photos by Kyle Matteson

KJM_4462The second the band stepped on stage on a cool Saturday night an hour outside of Denver, I knew that this show was going to be quite a different animal than the more focused (yet still great) show in Toronto a month prior. How did i know you ask? The band came out wearing orange cowboy hats, western shirts, and Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson both sporting skirts. Certainly a nod to their late friend and bandmate, Bob Stinson, who often wore skirts on stage

After starting out the show with the exact same trio of songs* as their Chicago and Toronto sets, they surprised me with yet another tune off of their 1981 debut album, the gritty ‘Shiftless When Idle‘. I recall  when I had heard they would be reuniting for these shows and feeling like they probably wouldn’t play too much off of their first two albums, and focus mostly on their more popular and less punk-y tunes from ‘Let It Be‘ on. So you can imagine my excitement when almost a quarter of their setlists for these shows were taken from ‘Sorry Ma‘ and ‘Hootenanny‘. That’s not to say I don’t love (and mostly prefer) their latter material, but as someone who was too young and grew up in the middle of nowhere in Montana, that didn’t get to see them the first time around, I enjoyed getting a chance to hear a song from every single album in their amazing catalog.

Westerberg seemed more talkative than the Toronto show at the start, dropping some absolutely hilarious banter in between songs. “In my time here… I hope to get some quality time with ‘The String Cheese Incident‘, referencing one of the more popular jam bands that hail from Colorado. Another that sticks out in my mind, at one point Stinson, possibly egged on by someone in the crowd, said something to Westerberg and he replied “What’s that? “You’re in the jungle baby?” Ohhhh, I knew it was coming. Oh No! Far be it from me to giving you shit for being in Van Halen“, poking fun at Stinson for being a member of Guns N’ Roses.

Androgynous‘ faired quite a bit better than it did in Canada, but Westerberg still forgot the start of the last verse, finally figuring it out a few lines in. ‘I Don’t Know’ from 1987’s ‘Pleased To Meet Me‘ was yet another departure from the Toronto show, and while it’s never been a favorite of mine, I loved their live take on the tune. I also couldn’t help feel like they chose that specific song to sum up their feelings on reuniting:

“Do we give it up? (I don’t know), Should we give it hell? (I don’t know), Are you makin’ a fortune? (I don’t know), Should we give it up? (I don’t know), Or hang around some more? (I don’t know)”.

Before diving into ‘Can’t Hardly Wait‘, the band played a pretty faithful short snippet of ‘Hello, Goodbye‘ by The Beatles, and the one two punch of ‘Wait’ and ‘Bastards of Young’ ended their 75 minute main set on a high note. At this point they had already played longer than their previous two Riot Fest shows, but they had another 15 minutes left until the midnight curfew.

KJM_4472What happened during the encore was a small glimpse into the crazy stories of many of their 80’s show hijinks. Westerberg jumped behind Josh Freese’s drumkit, while Freese took over for Stinson on bass, with Stinson playing guitar along with David Minehan. “HOOTENANNY in E!” Westerberg yelled from behind the kit, as they stumbled their way through the title track from their 1982 album of the same name. At this point I was already sort of in shock, so not much else could have surprised me at this point. Westerberg told the rest of the band “What the hell they want? You name it, I can play it”, which lead the band to attempt a cover of Kiss‘s ‘Detroit Rock City‘, that actually sounded decent until it was abandoned after the first chorus. “We’re getting warm, we’re getting warm” Westerberg joked. Stinson laughed as he told the crowd “You asked for it, we’re here”. “We gotta send ’em away happy. We’re gonna give you a song so you can drive down the lonely dark two lane highway” Westerberg proclaimed as they stumbled to try and play ‘Substitute‘ by The Who, complete with Westerberg doing his best Keith Moon impression on drums.

The band waved goodbye with a few minutes left before the midnight curfew, but a second encore never happened. Instead their crew turned on the middle finger light statue they had used during the encores in Toronto and Chicago. While on paper it might have been an odd way to end the show (and possibly their reunion), it also seemed like the perfect way to go out, should it be their last show. I personally feel they’re having far too much fun and making too many people happy (and money, let’s not kid ourselves here) in the process, for it to be “the end”, but I guess we’ll see soon enough. Considering I never in a million years imagined I’d get a chance to see them play, I won’t be surprised either way. But you can bet I will be attending as many shows as I possibly can if they decide to forge ahead, and I suggest any fans of the band to do the same.

“God, what a mess, on the ladder of success” indeed.

* Sidenote… at some point during the first three songs where I was allowed to take pictures in the photo pit, Westerberg’s orange cowboy hat had fallen off, and  he drop kicked it off the stage and it hit me directly in the head (you can see the photographic evidence below). Sadly the girl next to me picked it up before I had a chance, but it was still one of the more memorable moments of the show.

Setlist:

Takin a Ride
I’m in Trouble
Favorite Thing
Shiftless When Idle
Hangin Downtown
Jingle Jangle Jingle (Kay Kyser cover)
Color Me Impressed
Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out / Third Stone from the Sun (Jimi Hendrix)
Kiss Me on the Bus
Achin’ to Be
Androgynous
I Will Dare
Love You Till Friday
Maybellene (Chuck Berry cover)
Merry Go Round
Wake Up
Borstal Breakout (Sham 69 cover)
Little Mascara
Left of the Dial
Alex Chilton
I Don’t Know (featured Buck Hill during the middle)
Hold My Life
Hello Goodbye (The Beatles cover)
Can’t Hardly Wait
Bastards of Young

Encore:
Hootenanny
Detroit Rock City (Kiss cover) (Westerberg on drums and vocals, Freese on bass, Stinson on guitar and vocals)
Substitute  (The Who cover) (snippet, Stinson on guitar and lead vocals, Westerberg on drums)

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