Tommy Stinson, at left, and Paul Westerberg of the Replacements played outdoors beneath palm trees at the Coachella music festival April 11. Photo by Claude Peck
PALM SPRINGS, CA. -- For those of us, myself included, who remember weaving through icy Minneapolis streets to see the Replacements at the black-painted urban bus depot called First Avenue in the 1980s, the setting of their show last night was a stark contrast.
Twenty-three years after the band split up, and half a year after performing three reunion shows at RiotFest, the band played on the smaller of two outdoor stages at Coachella, the giant annual music fest located on a vast grassy polo grounds in Indio, California.The night was balmy, pot smoke perfumed the dry desert air and colored uplights bathed swaying palm trees in lurid glows of purple, red, green and citron. The total crowd was said to be about 75,000.
A giant spaceman hovered over normal-sized concertgoers at Coachella music festival in Indio, California. Photo by Claude Peck.
Despite 9 p.m. temperatures that remained in the mid-80s, Paul Westerberg came onstage in a white shirt with cufflinks, a bowtie and a sportcoat, looking more like a well-scrubbed algebra teacher on a parent conference night than the legendary lead singer of an influential post-punk band.
His bandmates included one other original Replacement, bassist Tommy Stinson, plus fast-and-furious drummer Josh Freese and perpetual-motion guitarist Dave Minehan.
Speaking of fast and furious, no-longer-young Westerberg unleashed tons of punky energy from the get-go, with three of the first four songs (“Takin’ a Ride,” “I’m in Trouble,” and “Hangin’ Downtown”) coming from their first album, 1981’s “Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash.” Westerberg let out a full-throated rocker howl in “Trouble.”
The Coachella show had 18 songs, including the two encore songs (“Alex Chilton” and “Bastards of Young,” which had the mixed-age crowd in full sing-along mode). Last fall’s RiotFest shows included about 24 songs.
Mid-set at Coachella, the band inserted “Nowhere Is My Home,” a B-side that had not been played at any of the RiotFest gigs. Another rarity, “Psychopharmacology,” showed up near the end of the set.
Westerberg, who eventually removed his tie and jacket, was in a chatty and gregarious, occasionally ornery mood. “We once made a record called ‘Stink,’ “ he said. “The new CD is called ‘Feculent.’”
Later, he announced to the throng, “I’m looking for a girl who’s never used the word ‘awesome.’ Still looking.”
Westerberg needed start-agains on a couple songs, including such anthems as “Androgynous” and “Achin’ to Be.”
The crowd for the Replacements concert, while not sparse, was quite a bit smaller than for Chromeo, Ellie Gouldling, AFI, Girl Talk and closer Outkast, all of which took place on the bigger Coachella stage. On Friday, other music at the Outdoor Theatre, where the Replacements played, included a cool sunset set by Neko Case, and sets by Broken Bells and the Knife.
Neko Case, at left, performed at Coachella on Friday. Photo by Claude Peck
I did not hear OutKast, but Janelle Monae was a guest at their reunion gig, and Prince reportedly was backstage, but did not appear. After not playing or recording together since 2006, OutKast’s Andre 3000 and Bigboi launched a 40-festival 2014 tour with their show at Coachella. Here's their Coachella set list. Some reviewers found the set disappointing.
The Replacements play again at Coachella on April 18, and they have more festival dates this summer, including at Shaky Knees in Atlanta (May 10) and Forecastle in Louisville, Kentucky (July 20). To the dismay of hometown fans, a Twin Cities concert is not scheduled.
Other acts at Coachella this year include Arcade Fire, Beck, Lorde, Pet Shop Boys, Skrillex, Queens of the Stone Age, Foster the People and the Pixies.
The Replacements’ Coachella set list: Takin’ a Ride / I’m In Trouble / Favorite Thing / Hangin’ Downtown / Color Me Impressed / Nowhere Is My Home / Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out / Achin’ to Be / Androgynous / Love Ya Till Friday / Left of the Dial / I’ll Be You / White and Lazy / Psychopharmacology / Alex Chilton / Cant’ Hardly Wait (encore) / Bastards of Young (encore)