“We’re taking a day off from our dayjob,” Tommy Stinson coyly declared Monday night, right before he invited some of his co-workers on stage at the Fine Line in Minneapolis.
Anybody who saw the Minneapolis music vet a night earlier with Guns N’ Roses at Target Center should’ve recognized three of the players: keyboardist Dizzy Reed, drummer Frank Ferrer and Richard Fortus, aka “that guitarist who looks and plays just like Izzy Stradlin.” Unlike their previous night’s show, they managed to take the stage before the evening news started, and to play a tight set that didn’t require three years of rehearsals. I’d be surprised if they had more than three hours, but you wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Performing to promote his new album and raise money for his favorite charity in Haiti, Stinson kicked off the show with three solo-acoustic numbers, including a wry new one called “Zero to Stupid” and Bash & Pop’s “Nothing.” He also encored alone with a mash-up of “Friday Night Is Killing Me” and “First Steps.” In between, he played for nearly an hour with his all-star crew, also joined by frequent collaborator Pete Donnelly (of the Figgs) on bass and longtime-girlfriend-turned-new-wife Emily Roberts (now "Stinson") on backup vocals.
With the clear intent of spotlighting Stinson's songwriting abilities instead of their own musical prowess, the group didn't throw in any cover songs, GNR tunes or "jams." Instead, they stuck to Tommy's new album, “One Man Mutiny,” starting with the snarling twang-punk rocker “It’s a Drag.” Highlights included the bittersweet duet with Emily, “Destroy Me,” and the twangy “Match Made in Hell,” which Tommy’s old Replacements mate Paul Westerberg had a small hand in writing. “Something’s Wrong,” from Stinson’s 2006 solo album “Village Gorilla Head,” was also a blast, amped up with Reed’s organ and Fortus’ Stonesy guitar licks.
Some of the couple hundred fans on hand kept glancing up at the empty Fine Line balcony, presumably to see if Axl Rose happened to sneak in. I debated with a friend over who was more unlikely to be there: Rose or Westerberg? Dan Murphy of Soul Asylum did make it out, as did a lot of Stinson’s family. Tommy made it sound like he had family on stage with him, though, saying, “There aren’t five people in the world I’d rather spend a night of my life with than these guys.”