Tommy Stinson at the Fine Line, 11/14/11

Tommy Stinson and Friends

November 14, 2011
Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis

Serving as a vacation from their tightly rehearsed, big-budget "day job," as Stinson put it, Tommy and his three touring Guns 'N Roses bandmates Dizzy Reed (keys), Richard Fortus (guitar), and Frank Ferrer (drums) played it loud and loose for a modest crowd at the Fine Line last night. 

The gig was a fundraiser for Stinson's pet project Timkatec, a trade school he helped build in Haiti, but he didn't dwell too much on public service announcements or sermons. Instead, he let his music speak for itself, only stopping between songs to figure out what came next before barreling into another tune from his lengthy musical career.

Stinson started the evening by playing a three-song solo acoustic set that effectively drew the small crowd away from the bar and toward the front of the stage, including the new sneering "Zero to Stupid" that he wrote with his "new uncle-in-law" Chip Roberts.

Sometime between last May, when he was in town to play a solo gig at First Avenue, and this fall, Stinson tied the knot with his longtime girlfriend Emily Roberts (now Stinson), and his new wife joined him once again for this show to sing backing vocals and duet with him on the disturbing "Destroy Me." The band was fleshed out by Pete Donnelly of the Figgs, who Stinson joked was the "most tenured" player in his band that night before gushing that his impromptu band were his five favorite people in the world. As a full group, they fleshed out nearly every track on Stinson's new record, One Man Mutiny, in addition to a few songs off his first solo album Village Gorilla Head and a tune from his old band Bash & Pop.

Tommy Stinson at the Fine Line, 11/14/11
​"I've got my uncles and my aunts and my mom and shit out there," Stinson scoffed at one point, waving a glass of whiskey toward the crowd. After a bit of shuffling around on stage and saying he was playing with a group of real professionals, the sound man could be heard laughing to Tommy through the monitors: "There's no such thing as a professional musician."

"You're right," Stinson smiled. "We're all a bunch of slackers."

Stinson has been performing live in one form or another since he was 13 years old, and even though he seemed to approach this Fine Line show as more of a loose jam session than a concert, there was no denying the fact that the performers on stage have an innate ability to put on a great show, even when they're still feeling out the chord changes. It was appropriate, then, that one of the finest moments of the concert was during the encore when Stinson returned solo to play "Friday Night (Is Killing Me)," delivering a version that was powerful and poignant one minute and all but dead in the water the next as he slowly worked in strains of "First Steps." Rehearsed shows are nice and all, but I'll take a former Replacement fumbling through a medley in search of a beautiful melody any day of the week.

Tommy Stinson at the Fine Line, 11/14/11
Tommy Stinson at the Fine Line, 11/14/11
Personal bias: I always make an effort to catch Tommy when he's in town. His ear for songwriting is extraordinary.
The crowd: Mid-sized and mixed; scenesters from across the generations.
Overheard in the crowd: "Good to have you back in town, Tommy!"
Random notebook dump: High on Stress played up their 'Mats influence in the opening set by burning through their songs at breakneck speed, barely stopping to take a breath before launching into another alt-country-meets-punk-rock tune.

Set List:
Makes Me Happy
Zero to Stupid (new)
Match Made in Hell
It's a Drag
Something's Wrong
Meant to Be
Not a Moment Too Soon
Destroy Me
Light of Day
One Man Mutiny
Come to Hide
Don't Deserve You
Friday Night (Is Killing Me)/First Steps

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