ARTS

  /  

February 18, 2005

Ex-Replacement Stinson treats Double Door to songs from the heart, the bar

This is my first quarter at the U of C as a 21 year old. Thank you. Bouncers up here think my Arkansas ID is fake, which means I've missed out on the club scene so far. I had also never heard Tommy Stinson before I went to review his show at the Double Door, so I was doubly expectant when I stepped off the Blue Line and made my way to the club last Thursday. Let me say, for those of you who haven't made it to the Double Door, this is a medium-sized club with plenty of $3.50 bottles and quality acoustics. I also commend the number of ceiling fans that they have, which, as far as I'm concerned, is crucial.

These are all the endorsements I care to give without getting paid, so I'll get to the music. Tommy Stinson and his pedal-steel player Dave Philips headlined a bill that included a fine band called Waiting for Ashley and a bad (as in bad) set from Scott Lucas, of local Local H fame. Waiting for Ashley are a quartet with a lead singer who looks like Dana Carvey and sings like he's in the Violent Femmes. They played a rhythmic acoustic set that included a great cover of "Let Me Get What I Want" by the Smiths.

Scott Lucas accompanied himself on a fancy-looking acoustic guitar, and I decided, as I leaned against a wall, that he played and sang like one of Kurt Cobain's less talented cousins. Granted, that describes a lot of post-Nevermind rock, but I thought that by now the Gavin Rossdales of the world were holding it down in movies like Constantine, or had at least retired from music.

After three-beers' time, Lucas' set was finished, and I stepped to the front of the stage, more than ready for Tommy Stinson. Anyone who listens to the Replacements—who are no less than one of the greatest American rock bands of the '80s—is familiar with Stinson's pedigree. When he was 15 years old he started touring the country with those cats as a bass player, and he hasn't stopped working since.

Stinson and Dave Philips, whom I had the pleasure of seeing in Little Rock with the Catholics, took the stage at about 11:30 in Reservoir Dogs-style black suits and ties, with Stinson on a black acoustic and Philips on a burgundy electric. They launched into a track called "Motivation" from Village Gorilla Head, Stinson's 2004 solo debut. Stinson and Philips play what I just call "rock 'n' roll"—loud, R & B-sounding, easy to hear, kind of like church music—and they are a good example of what the combination of talent, energy, and black suits can do for performers.

Stinson stuck to his new album, playing nearly all of its 11 tracks, the best of which was "Not a Moment Too Soon," featuring Philips on pedal-steel. After about five acoustic guitar/pedal-steel numbers, Stinson played one solo, and then told us that he was tired of the stage lights and wanted to play over by the bar. Plus he wanted a drink. "Ha ha," the audience laughed, but Tommy walked off the stage, over to the bar, said hi to the bartenders, and stood on top of the counter. Damn straight! Whilst on the bar, Stinson did about five more songs without amplification or microphone. Looking around, I couldn't find a face in the crowd that wasn't smiling.

Just as quickly as he got up, Stinson drank another shot and was back onstage with Philips for their last songs, which included "Can't Hardly Wait," an old Replacements tune that was made into a movie with Jennifer Love Hewitt. That was a joke. What's serious, though, is that Tommy Stinson will give you your money's worth and help you remember why rock 'n' roll is cool.