As legacies go, it’s a beaut. The problem with legacies, though, is that once removed from their protective amber shells, they become extremely volatile. Used to be, a band wouldn’t have to deal with this conundrum. Once you broke up, that was it, and even Lorne Michaels dangling a $3,000 check on live television couldn’t dissuade you. However, the recent flurry of band reunions, led by the resurgent Pixies, has put many long-term reputations in play. Does the money grab overrule concerns about tarnishing past glories? That is the question currently before The Replacements.
What is The Replacements these days, anyway? Bob Stinson is long gone, Slim Dunlap is battling a stroke-related illness and Chris Mars can’t be bothered, apparently. Thus, it’s down to Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson to carry the ‘Mats mantle into the 21st century, at least as far as live performances go. The band was always an erratic entity on stage, but those indiscretions were more easily excused when they were wayward youthful impulses. How well can a middle-aged, relatively sober and professional outfit hold up against the image of their reckless, rule-breaking, hell-raising former selves? As it turns out, pretty damn well.
Prior to their set at Atlanta’s Shaky Knees festival on May 10th, I had last laid eyes on The Replacements during the Dallas, Texas, stop for ‘89′s Don’t Tell a Soul tour. I interviewed Chris Mars for my radio show before the gig and the resignation in his voice foreshadowed the lackluster performance that followed. The band that took the stage that evening was out of steam and almost out of ideas. Mars had already launched a solo career and Westerberg was soon to follow, spending the next two decades releasing alternately brilliant and disappointing material, sometimes within the same song.