First off: There's really no such a thing as a casual Replacements fan. People either don't get what the big deal is or worship the Minneapolis rock forefathers, with that particular brand of emotional reverence reserved for music that has some kind of rarity, a precariousness to it. In the case of the 'Mats, this is at least partially born of their breakup in 1991 -- the swingin' party that ended much too soon, with terrific, booze-soaked theatrics, leaving behind a question mark about what could have been had its attendees not seemed hell-bent on mutually assured destruction.
At the Masonic last night, some 3,300 fans -- nary a casual one amongst them -- got the chance to answer that question for themselves, thanks to the Replacements' 2013 reunion and San Franciscans' year and a half of patiently waiting until the guys got around to visiting our fair city. Yes, from the looks of the room, last night was a night to forget it was Monday, hire a babysitter, throw on that faded black punk band t-shirt from the back of your closet, and jump up and down with both arms extended in a kind of religious fervor, screaming the words to “Bastards of Young” back at one surprisingly sprightly and good-natured Paul Westerberg, gray hair (his and yours) be damned. It was, after all, the band’s first Bay Area gig in over two decades, and the scent of once-in-a-lifetime, pinch-me-this-can’t-be-real wish fulfillment hung in the air alongside the beer and the sweat and the weed.
"We used to play in the lowlands," said Tommy Stinson to the sold-out crowd at one point, recalling the band's last gigs in San Francisco. "Now we're at the top of the hill. Anyone remember the I-Beam?," referring to the small Haight Street underground rock nightclub of the '80s and early '90s. "Remember the I-Beam?!"
"I barely do," said Westerberg. A few minutes later, on playing the city's "mountain top": "I think I pulled a hamstring."
Signature self-deprecation and “ha, we’re old” references aside, this was about as far from a typical reunion show as one could hope for from a bunch of middle-aged dudes finally capitalizing on a legacy that has only grown more weighty in their absence. This is a good thing. They churned through the hits, of course, to the degree that the Replacements can be considered to have had hits -- “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “I Will Dare,” "Left of the Dial," "Alex Chilton" -- but they also know their fan base at this point, and their fan base wants the deeper cuts too. They want “Hangin’ Downtown,” they want “The Ledge,” they want “Sixteen Blue,” “If Only You Were Lonely,” “I’ll Be You,” “Androgynous,” "All Shook Down," "Seen Your Video" and “Within Your Reach.” They want Westerberg solo, fingerpicking a guitar, singing “Skyway” like he's trying to lull you to sleep and break your heart at the same time.