The Replacements at Toad’s Place

I spent the greater part of the early Nineties playing guitar in the electric alt-rock band The Name. One night in Middletown, CT, the band’s instruments and amps were stolen from a parked car. After a gig at The Moon in New Haven, we weighed our options and decided the easiest course of action was to become an acoustic rock band. The advantages were clear: less stuff to own, move and maintain.

I traveled to all our gigs in a beat-up Dodge van. The only thing that worked right was the cassette player. At the time, I was living on a steady diet of REM, The Silos and The Replacements. I was a true believer in The Replacements and devoured every recording. I would search out magazine articles and read everything I could about them.

Musician did two major stories that formed the backbone of my knowledge of the band (beyond their music). The December 1990 issue had the story “Replacements Kaput (say it ain’t so, Paul)”. After reading it, it was clear the band was not long for the road. When a February 1991 show at Toad’s Place in New Haven was announced, it was also clear that if I wanted to see one last show, I had to get my ass down to Toad’s!

It was a shitty snowy stormy night, and no one wanted to go with me, so I went alone. I got there early and sat down on the stage just to the right of where Paul Westerberg would end up taking the stage. I made a deal with another early arrival that we would hold each other’s spot by the stage if one of us left for a drink or to take a piss. Uncle Tupelo opened the show with a blistering take-no-prisoners set that was so tight and fast-paced that it felt over before it really got started.

It was pretty close to midnight when The Replacements took the stage, opening with an ear-bleeding “ Don’t Know”. For a band on the verge of breaking up, you wouldn’t see any evidence that night. They played an amazing 28-song set. Slim Dunlap’s leads on “Bent Out of Shape” were just that. I remember him leaning into Paul and the two of them cracking a simultaneous smile. I’ve never heard “Waitress in the Sky” played so fast or “Chuck Berry” played like that, before or after. Not only did they play all their classic songs, but they also played a bunch of songs from the new All Shook Down LP. Tommy Stinson looked happy as a kid in a candy shop and Paul wasn’t too far behind with a constant shit-eating grin on his face. The band was really “on” and the audience loved it. They ended the set with “Left of The Dial” and “Alex Chilton”.

Walking out into the cold night air singing “who knew that avenue was bound for Happy Town?,” I ran into a friend who also had been at the show at the parking lot on Broadway, where I parked my car. When she started talking to me about the concert, I realized her words sounded like paper being torn. I’m pretty sure the show was the loudest concert I had ever been to and standing against the stage dead in front of the speakers was not the best plan after all.

I remembered this while reading The Replacements bio Trouble Boys, where Steve Foley (the drummer on that tour) recalled the deafening volume of that last tour. I had seen Neil Young with Crazy Horse, Sonic Youth, and Social Distortion eight days before (third row at the New Haven Coliseum). and that show was nowhere near as loud. At some point, my hearing came back, kind of. I have hearing loss to this day and feel attending concerts starting in 1965 with no hearing protection played a part in it.

That last concert included many songs from the “last” Replacements LP All Shook Down. The LP has been referred to as the “Paul gets a 12-string acoustic guitar” album. This is not completely fair as Paul used an acoustic from the beginning. Paul recorded most of the songs without the band, bringing them in for overdubs. It is a testament to how tight the band could be live, and that with electric instruments the songs retained the feel and vibe they had on the more acoustic treatment they received on All Shook Down.

There was the benefit album for Slim Dunlap who suffered a stroke in 2013, but little else new has been released under The Replacements name. Tommy and Paul continue to release amazing solo recordings to this day. To quote a line from one of Tommy’s songs, “anything could happen.”