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Listen: The 6 greatest Replacements hometown shows, 1980-1991

April 24, 2014

Tommy Stinson and Paul Westerberg
Tommy Stinson and Paul Westerberg on stage at Toronto's RiotFest in August, 2013.
Ben Clark for MPR

The Replacements have just announced their first hometown gig in 23 years that will take place Sept. 13 at the Midway Stadium in St. Paul, MN, nearly 13 months after their triumphant return at Riot Fest in Toronto in Aug. 2013.

To celebrate the announcement, we connected with Trace Hull — curator of the Replacements Live Archive, a blog dedicated to tracking down, digitizing and archiving all Replacements-related recordings, to share his top six hometown Replacements gigs and why they are so memorable including complete audio from all six performances.

Note: the sources for the audio included in this feature are a mixture of fan-recorded, soundboards, audience mics or video rips, and while the quality doesn't meet the minimum for Neil Young's Pono, the recordings do capture the personality of each individual performance.

Enter here for your chance to win tickets to the Replacements' show Sept. 13 at Midway Stadium.

July 17, 1980, Jay's Longhorn Bar, Minneapolis, MN

Two months after Paul Westerberg handed future manager Peter Jesperson a four-song demo at the Oarfolkjokeopus record store, the Replacements opened for the Dads at the Longhorn (as it was affectionately know by the locals). The Longhorn was the center of the Minneapolis punk scene and seemed like the perfect venue for a motley crew of townies with a 14-year-old bass player. This soundboard is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, known live recordings of the Replacements. Of the eight-song set, only two would ever appear on an official release: "More Cigarettes" on Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash and the outake "Get On The Stick," which didn't appear until 2008 on the Sorry Ma... remasters. So in between we get three unreleased songs, two Johnny Thunders covers, and a punked-up cover of the Kinks classic "All Day and All of the Night." Listening to this show you can hear their confidence — or maybe it's their ambivalence — but they already know they're good, and it's a pretty strong performance for a bunch of kids opening for the Dads.

September 5, 1981, 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis, MN

Billed as "Twin/Tone Records the 7th Street Entry Live." This is the date for one of the earliest known live Replacements video recordings, from which this audio is derived. During the first week of Sept. 1981, Twin/Tone rented video and sound gear to record 15 bands live over a five-night period. The Replacements played two sets and were the middle band; Neglectors opening with Husker Du closing.

The release of The Replacements Stink was still nearly nine months away, but that didn't deter the band from performing vicious versions of "God Damn Job," "Dope Smokin' Moron," and the unreleased classic "Staples In Her Stomach." The band continue to show their knowledge of the rock and roll songbook by covering the songs of Larry Williams, Chuck Berry, and Hank Williams; that trend that would continue throughout their existence.

By this time the band had gained a reputation for indulging a little too much before their performances. Surprisingly, this 34-song set is tight and rife with some inspiring covers: T. Rex, Elvis Presley, Rockpile, and the Grass Roots to name a few. This is also the earliest live recording of the 'Mats performing Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Cross-Tie Walker," a song that would come and go in the bands' setlists up through 1989.

As in their previous show, the 'Mats performed five tracks from the not-as-yet-released future classic Let It Be. You can tell the release is still eight months away. "Unsatisfied" still has an embryonic feel to it; Paul is obviously still working through the lyrics, even though most of the music seems like it's there (they also seem to be working out "Sixteen Blue"). Another highlight is the four-minute version of "Take Me Down To The Hospital," which the band just attacks.

This performance was the second night of a two-night stand at First Avenue. It's also the last recording of Bob Stinson playing in Minneapolis. The band are in rare form, as can be the case for hometown shows. They either seem to really show up or decide to blow the whole thing off. With nearly half of the show being cover songs, you decide.

Tim had been released the previous Oct. and of the 'Mats originals played, the setlist leans heavily towards this album. A blistering, Westerberg-vocal-shredding "Dose of Thunder" leads into a strong "Hold My Life," followed by a messy "Gimme Noise." Of the ten covers played, the audience is treated to a rare performance — and the Replacements debut — of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," which only appears on two recordings (the other being July 4, 1987), and David Bowie's "Jean Genie," which was only performed three times.

"Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping, brother John?" Not any more...

"We're shit and we know it, thank you." - Paul Westerberg

You know you're in for a treat when the band opens with "Hello Dolly," follows that up with a Patsy Cline song, and plays "Born In The USA," all within the space of seven minutes.

The boys finally kick off the show proper with "I.O.U." from the forthcoming Pleased to Meet Me (July 1987), but not before Paul makes fun of Tommy's pants and admits that "we're all gay."

What could have collapsed into the epitome of a sloppy hometown show, in typical Replacements fashion, where they can be the worst band you've ever seen to the best band on the planet, they turn it around fast. Listen to Slim's guitar work on the coda of "The Ledge." That's followed by 20 seconds of an aborted "Androgynous," only to be resuscitated by a raucous "Never Mind." For those keeping score, the boys bring it back down with "Hello Dolly" and a 30-second version of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man." (Is that Tommy on vocals?)

Their last Minneapolis performance. Surprisingly, this show doesn't sound like a band that was seven months away from playing their last show for 22 years. By this time original drummer Chris Mars was gone, replaced by Minneapolis mainstay Steve Foley (Curtiss A). Half of the original band had been replaced.

But don't be fooled. The band comes out fast and loud with "I Don't Know," playing as if they have something to prove after ten-plus years of playing every dank bar and club from Boston to San Francisco (definitely not L.A.). The set leans heavily on Don't Tell a Soul and All Shook Down tracks. The rare and final performance of "I'm Just Your Good Thing" (Slim Harpo/George Thorogood) is a highlight.

The Replacements
Tommy Stinson and Paul Westerberg playing their first show since 1991 as the Replacements in Toronto.
Ben Clark