The Replacements Finally Get a Live Album Worthy of Their Legend

The Replacements – For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986 (Rhino/Sire)

When anyone talks about the Replacements, they usually mention their notorious live shows – equal parts sloppy drunkenness and punk-fueled, reckless abandon. Added to their mystique was the fact that very little actual concert footage had been issued as evidence. Rhino Records remedies this with the release of For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986, a two-disc collection, featuring 29 tracks, capturing the ‘Mats at the peak of their powers.

The sound quality is stellar – both crisp and meaty.

No band epitomized the “I don’t give a shit” attitude quite like the Replacements. This concert captures the original lineup of the band, featuring Paul Westerberg on vocals/guitar, Tommy Stinson (who now plays with Guns N’ Roses!) on bass, Chris Mars on drums and the unpredictable Bob Stinson on lead guitar – just months before his exit from the band.

This set truly captures the group with all their brilliance and flaws in tact. On one hand, their energy is undeniable. When they set their minds to it, the Replacements were a ferocious live act. Yet, just in so many cases throughout their career, there are times when they seem hell-bent on tearing everything down. Whether it’s the wrong note played (on purpose?) in “Answering Machine” or forgetting the words to songs (quite often, one example on “I Will Dare”), or a completely ridiculous, half-run though of Sweet’s “Fox on the Run” – they sound like a band that forgot to rehearse; the musical equivalent of “my dog ate my homework.”

Other times, they’re untouchable, as in the slashing chords of “Bastards of Young,” or the surprisingly buoyant “Kiss Me on the Bus,” or a shockingly good cover of Vanity Fare’s “Hitchin’ a Ride.” The band even runs through an early version of “Can’t Hardly Wait,” albeit with different lyrics than the one that would be released on Pleased to Meet Me a year later.

This concert finds the band in an interesting crossroad – they were starting to write brilliant material, like the teenage anthem “Bastards of Young” and the college radio ode “Left of the Dial,” yet were still holding on to sophomoric early fare like “Gary’s Got a Boner” and “Fuck School.” It’s like they wanted to be taken seriously, and then, as soon as they were, they pissed all over it.

The one member that benefits the most from this release is the late Bob Stinson – his guitar playing is exhilarating, and unpredictable. Although, there are times when you think “is he fucking up on purpose”? This erratic, alcohol-induced behavior would finally cause his firing (he eventually passed away in 1995). Yet, after Stinson’s departure, the Replacements were never the same – some of the danger had been removed.

Another common topic regarding the Replacements is how they should’ve “made it” – instead, breaking up in the early 90’s, right as the alternative movement swept through the rock world. Yet, For Sale: Like at Maxwell’s 1986 shows a band that was never going to last – you just can’t bottle the youthful energy. But, as a snapshot in time, it’s fantastic. Here’s evidence that the Replacements were as good as their legend. —Tony Peters