‘Mats intoxicate Aragon crowd

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
February 4, 1991

The Replacements made brilliant noise Saturday night at the Aragon Ballroom, performing a concert that was inspired in its unabashed celebration of music and unusual in its uncharacteristic professionalism.

Their latest album, “All Shook Down,” may be a product of vocalist Paul Westerberg’s musical tastes, but at the Replacements’ concert, each member had his turn in the spotlight.  The Aragon’s muddled acoustics make most artists sound foreign, and Westerberg’s raspy vocals at times fell victim to the venue.

But the music came across clearly, particularly Slim Dunlap’s guitars, which defiantly defined the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.  And Tommy Stinson’s crisp bass lines resounded throughout the hall, meshing well with newest member Steve Foley’s drumming.

The band eschewed some of the softer acoustic numbers from “All Shook Down” for older, obscure cuts.  Given the Aragon’s murky sound, it’s just as well the musicians overlooked the gorgeous “Sadly Beautiful” for a song like the sardonic “Waitress in the Sky” and the insipidly raucous “Kiss Me on the Bus.”

Since their inception, the Replacements (also known as the Placemats and the ‘Mats) have embraced most musical styles, from power trash and garage rock to chiming pop. What they may lack in studied technique, they make up with infectious enthusiasm. The ‘Mats have never been a band about technique.  They thrive on cacophony and make music out of dissonance.

Westerberg led the Replacements through a 1-hour, 40-minute show that included a speeded-up version of their 1989 hit “I’ll Be You” and a relatively laid-back rendition of “One Wink at a Time.” Whether letting loose blood-curdling banshee screams or singing in a hoarse whisper, he commanded attention and respect.

Tossing macho bravado aside, the scruffily charismatic singer gave Stinson a peck (on the lips?) early in the show.  In light of the turbulence that has brewed within the group and led to drummer Chris Mars quitting the band last year, the gesture was symbolic of Westerberg’s desire to make the group work.

A continued jeremiad about the Replacements has been that you never know what you’re going to get from the Minneapolis-based band. The quality of their shows has fluctuated from sloppy, booze-induced concerts to performances that bordered on creative genius. Saturday, the Replacements showed they could go on sober and still be intoxicating.

The Posies opened the show with a set that rivaled the ‘Mats in popularity and surpassed that group in musical proficiency. The young band’s cover of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” was superb.

A Seattle-based quartet that on vinyl sounds like a spruced-up version of the Hollies, the Posies proved they’ve still got enough of their bar-band roots to make them one of today’s most exciting groups.

Saturday night, they received the ultimate compliment: an encore.

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