This image of Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson at the end of last Saturday's triumphant homecoming show for The Replacements sums up everything there is to convey about the night. The fellas got up in front of 14,000 true believers at Midway Stadium and, to borrow the appropriate baseball phrase, knocked it out of the park. Everything about the day was perfect, and, for a boy like me that has been dreaming of an event like this for most of my adult life, it surpassed everything I could have hoped for.
From the perfect weather, to the perfect arrival, to the perfect parking spot, to the perfect wrong turn that led to the perfect local restaurant, it felt like something bigger was guiding this day. It was almost comical. If it was a movie I could say "What could possibly go wrong?" and then get struck by lightning, but nothing went wrong. Everything was really freakin' right.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I had a good time.
Right now it's all a jumble for me, and I'm having a hard time cataloging all the memories I have from the day. To detail them all would be lengthy and would ultimately be a failure. Maybe a list would serve me better.
- The weather perfectly illustrated why Minnesota rules in the Fall. Sunny, cool, light breeze... It was the kind of day that a friend of mine described as justifying staying in this state through Winter.
- We took a wrong turn and ended up just north of the State Fair Grounds, which led us to a fish and chips restaurant that Scooter and Shelley had always wanted to go to but never had the chance before. It was amazing.
- Arriving at Midway Stadium around one and getting an amazing (and free) parking spot right out front, which allowed us to hear the tail end of The Replacements' soundcheck.
- The merch table was outside the stadium, and it opened very early, allowing us to get our swag and take it back to the car. They had shirts and posters with the amazing Minnesota Twins style poster design, and they were relatively cheap for a big deal concert.
- Tailgating with Tune Town heroes Carl and Dave just outside the stadium gates drinking Hamm's for three hours. This also settled any disputes over whether or not Michael McDonald is appropriate for Replacements tailgating. (Answer: He is)
- The gates opened about a half hour early, allowing us to get within about 30 feet of the stage, front and center. Out position was perfect, because it was close enough to see the sweat, but far enough that we didn't have to deal with the carnage.
- Lucero hit the stage right before 7, and they were the perfect music for the tail end of sunlight. I had never heard anything from them before Saturday, and they won me over in all their weathered glory.
- The Hold Steady ROCKED. Craig Finn looked like the happiest boy on earth when he said "I'll save you the hysterics, but for a guy that grew up here this literally a dream come true for me". It was perfect that a hometown super fan got to open for this gig. I wish my crummy phone took better pictures, but you can still make out his massive smile. Extra points for opening with Your Little Hood Rat Friend.
- The Replacements hit the stage to Surfin' Bird. PERFECT.
- They pretty much played every song I would want them to play, and the show just kept getting better and better.
- The final song couldn't have been any more ideal. I even hugged Scooter Polanski, and I AM NOT A HUGGER!
The music... let's talk about the music. Coming out to Surfin' Bird was goofy but also a nice tribute to the history of Minnesota music. Then they launched into Favorite Thing. This clip has terrible sound but it gets the point across:
When the crew was setting up we got a glimpse of the setlist. From our distance we couldn't possibly read it, but it was apparent that they had a lot of songs planned. Sure enough, they played close to two hours, and played a fan's dream of "hits". Hits is such a relative term with these guys, but if you're a fan you have your faves, and I don't think they misfired all night. Let's check the list:
Pretty loaded with fan favorites, right? The only omission for me was Answering Machine, but, honestly, the last song of the night made up for any sins. I had checked setlists from the previous shows and never saw this song listed, but all of us DESPERATELY wanted it to be played. We were all but certain that there would be instant weeping if they played it, and by the second encore it was looking like it wasn't gonna happen. AND THEN IT DID:
UNSATISFIED. An appropriately emotional song for an incredibly emotional night. I even hugged Scooter Polanski. Listening to this clip now just makes me well up. The show delivered on every level.
The lengths that people went to for this show were astonishing. People from all over the country flew in. There were people from AUSTRALIA that made the show. This was the underachiever equivalent of seeing The Beatles in Liverpool, or The Velvet Underground in New York, or Springsteen at The Stone Pony, and it met every expectation.
When the lights came up and people filed out, I couldn't help but feel kind of lost. This was a night I had dreamed of for most of my adult life. It surpassed any hopes that I had for it, and now it was over. It was kind of heartbreaking, you know? I'm not sure how long it will take to shake this feeling. Hopefully getting this on the blog will sort it all out.
I put together a youtube playlist of the show with the best clips I could find. Take note of the big ol' kiss Paul plants on Tommy during Kiss Me On The Bus! I want to encourage folks again to visit the incredible Replacements Live Archive blog. If there's one show that feels guaranteed to end up there, it's this one, and that way the people that were there can relive it, and the folks that weren't can still experience the show in a small way.
Thanks for putting up with this fanboy.