Friday night The Replacements took over Forest Hills with a long-awaited concert at the historic Forest Hills Stadium. Though the band’s current tour began in 2013 this show marked the first time in over 20 years that the band played in New York. That time away seems to have improved the group’s live act taking a notoriously unpredictable band and transforming them into a dynamic, energetic, tight group who held the audience expertly for nearly two hours.
Upon exiting the subway in Forest Hills it was obvious that a concert was happening. The streets were crowded with punk-rockers of all sorts. So it seemed odd that during the opening acts the venue felt a bit large for the event. The floor, still a tennis court, was scantly populated and the seats above were nearly empty. Eventually the crowd made their way in and by the time The Replacements got going the place was packed.
From start to finish they had the crowd singing along and dancing, as much as people can really dance to indie music, skillfully ripping through a number of their well known originals while sporadically including some unexpected covers. Aside from slipping into a little Jimi Hendrix riffing between originals the band covered the Jackson 5’s “I want you back” and Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene” in full. They also did an excellent job of engaging the audience personally, exemplified by Stinson’s telling a story about falling and smashing his face on the way to the show.
The music was familiar but the indie-punk band did have a few replacements of their own. The original singer, Paul Westerberg and bassist, Tommy Stinson, still lead the band but are now joined by lead guitarist Dave Minehan and drummer John Freese. Minehan took the spot of Bob Stinson who passed away in 1995 with Freese filling in for Chris Mars who decided not to rejoin the group.
The first acts Deer Tick and the Hold Steady were both obviously influenced by the band for whom they opened. However, they lacked the stage presence of their musical predecessors and though they sounded good they did not entertain. This just further reinforced the rock-star status of The Replacements who have only gotten better with age.