The last time the Replacements played Chicago, they followed up with a 22-year hiatus. Yesterday, Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson were back to close out the Chicago incarnation of Riot Fest – their first U.S. gig since that show on July 4th, 1991.
With Westerberg and Stinson the only remaining original members, the quartet (rounded out with Josh Freese on drums and Dave Minehan on guitar) performed for a multi-generational crowd, most of whom were hearing the band's songs live for the first time. The 'Mats rocked hard and played a simliar set of tunes as they did in Toronto last month, with the additions of "Hold My Life" and "Waitress in the Sky." Their 25-song set vacillated between fast-paced early punk tracks and countrified ballads, and crowd pleasers like "Alex Chilton," "Can't Hardly Wait" and "Bastards of Young," which literally brought Westerberg to his knees. When he realized he only had a few minutes left to play, Westerberg exclaimed, "Shit, we have the whole fucking night ahead of us," but the stage went black after they played last song "I.O.U."
The Replacements shared yesterday's bill with the Pixies, another Eighties alt-rock standard-bearer. The group, which just finished a run of five warm-up shows in L.A., started their 75-minute set tentatively, but once they opened up their guitars, all bets were off. With touring bassist Kim Shattuck filling in for the departed Kim Deal, the foursome rocketed through favorites like "Monkey Gone to Heaven," "Hey," "Winterlong," "Here Comes Your Man" and "Indie Cindy," a brand new song from EP-1.
The rest of the weekend boasted a diverse bill, including rock veterans like Blondie, Joan Jett, Dinosaur Jr. and Flag, the splintered offshoot of Black Flag. Singer Keith Morris was careful to note the distinction, prefacing their performance by announcing, "I want to make one thing clear to you guys and to the T-shirt people, too: we're not Black Flag."
Deborah Harry of Blondie, who was dressed like a wizard, led her band through classics "Call Me," "Hanging on the Telephone," "Heart of Glass" and a dance-y new song "A Rose by Any Name." Public Enemy, the sole hip-hop group on the bill, brought the noise and a political agenda. Flavor Flav called for justice for Trayvon Martin, then declared that we need "more fucking schools in the U.S. and less prisons" between performing "911 Is a Joke," "Don't Believe the Hype" and "Harder Than You Think."
By the time Blink-182 took the stage Saturday, they performed their headline set to an aggressive crowd that drew a warning from singer Mark Hoppus. "Play well," he said, but midway through their set several ambulances showed up outside of the festival grounds, with reports surfacing that six people were taken to the hospital with injuries.
Rainy weather Sunday seemed to keep people away from mid-afternoon sets by Bob Mould and the reunited Dismemberment Plan, who dug into their back catalog for "The City" and "You Are Invited," and also played new songs "Invisible," "White Collar White Trash" and "Daddy Was a Real Good Dancer" from their forthcoming album, Uncanney Valley, their first new record in 12 years.
The next incarnation of Riot Fest takes place this weekend in Byers, Colo., outside Denver.