Tommy Stinson at First Avenue, 5/20/11


Tommy Stinson

May 20, 2011

First Avenue, Minneapolis

These are strange times we're living in, so the modest turnout at Friday night's Tommy Stinson show shouldn't have come as a surprise. But scanning the Mainroom this weekend, it was hard not to think back to last fall's Replacements tribute night, which had 'Mats fans streaming into both the Mainroom and Entry to listen to covers of one of the Twin Cities' most frequently romanticized bands. Despite the fact that Stinson's gig was the first chance to catch an original member of the Replacements live in the Twin Cities since Paul Westerberg occupied the same space back in 2007, the room only filled to about half its capacity. Strange times, indeed.

[jump] Stinson didn't pay it any mind, however, and the fans that did show up crowded together on the floor in front of the stage to pogo and sway as one rippling body, causing enough good-natured ruckus amongst one another to keep First Ave's security staff busy throughout the set.

Backed by a full band, Stinson took the opportunity to debut material off his forthcoming solo album, which is due out this fall. "You guys are the test market," he noted between songs, after grinning that "It's good to be back." The style of the songs had a comforting familiarity and resounded well with the crowd of 'Mats, Bash & Pop, and Perfect fans, and it had me thinking about the interview with Stinson that Jeff Gage conducted for this week's City Pages, and his thoughts on the new material: "The model's still the same," Stinson said, "it just gets a different paint job every few years."


Those Bash & Pop and Perfect fans were also treated to a few recognizable tunes, with a highlight of the set being a solo acoustic rendition of B&P's "Friday Night (Is Killing Me)" that had the room transfixed.

Of course, it wouldn't have been a real 'Mats revival without a few covers and some mayhem, and things started to get a little loose toward the end of the set as soon as Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner started ambling on and off the stage. Dressed in a First Ave hoodie, Pirner stepped on stage to tell a tasteless joke and then returned to pick up a shiny black guitar and smash it to pieces. As fans in the crowd reached for the broken guitar and started making their way for the door, Pirner continued his smashing rampage and sacrificed a total of three guitars ("They were only $40," his bandmate Danny Murphy shrugged at the end of the night) before taking his turn at the mic on the Who's "My Generation," repeating a few of the same lines that Stinson had just sang: "Why don't you all just f-f-fade away" and the clincher: "I hope I die before I get old."