Color Me Impressed

Photo by Matt OttoPaul Westerberg
House of Blues, Anaheim,
Saturday Feb. 26

Paul! Paaaaaauuulll!Hey!

You know my cousin. Chris Mars? Drummer in your old band? The Replacements? Him.I was the Mats' first California fan, so I'm at least partially responsible for Saturday's totally sold-out HOB show—so sold-out that there were sad-looking, 40-ish ex-punk-rockers hanging out by the box office, sheepishly hitting up people for a spare ducat. It was heartbreaking. Tragic, even.

But hey, you don't owe me nothin'. I never really thought you'd amount to much, but it's great you have. Has it really been a quarter-century since my mom told me that Aunt Connie's kid was playing drums in a punk band? I wish I had cared more about radio-unfriendly music back then, instead of banging the ol' Atari 2600 like every other 12-year-old on the block. Maybe then I would have hit Chris up when mom and I were in Minneapolis back in '82, when he was walking out the front door (answering with much embarrassment when Aunt Connie asked him the name of the new record, "The Replacements, uh . . . Stink,"he said) on his way to play a college-radio gig in Kansas City with you and the band, I could have said something like "Cool, can I go on the road with you guys and work your merch table in exchange for all the beer I can guzzle?" But what did I say instead? Something like "Mhuwuhn." I don't like hanging with relatives much. I probably just wanted to go home.

But how my life coulda changed, eh? A 12-year-old touring with the Drunkenest Band on Earth! The book deal—hell, the moviedeal—I would've had by now! I talked up the band all during the '80s. The responses I got from people at the beginning of that 10-year run went from "Who the fuck are the Replacements?" to "Chris Mars is so notyour cousin!" by the end. I bought Hootenannyon vinyl and loved it, and I was shocked when KMET played "Color Me Impressed" one day in '83 (only because John Doe and Exene were guest DJing, by some miraculous act of God). Then LetItBeand Timand the Warner years and "Alex Chilton" and "I'll Be You," and I didn't even stop liking your songs after Chris left the band because you were being such a greedy little douche, either. Well, AllShookDownand most of Don'tTellaSoulsucked, but you know that. I think.

Your solo stuff? Ehhh.Some good tunes, but you still haven't put out anything that keeps me interested for a whole album, though in this MP3 age, maybe that doesn't matter. Live, though, you can be fucking on.At least this night you were. People say you're still hit-and-miss onstage these days, but Saturday? Beautiful.It ain't like the old days when people used to come out solely to laugh at the drunk jerks onstage (remember that Coach House show? Didn't think so). You actually seemed to give a shit—mostly, anyway, when you weren't abandoning lines midverse, but big, dumb sloppiness like that is just so you."Merry Go Round" was a zillion times better than the swilly, overproduced AllShookDownversion. "As Far As I Know," the best thing on your new one, was terrific. And the covers—Georgia Satellites! Billy Joe Shaver! Bowie! Partridge Family! Cute. But y'know what? You've written some really great songs, too. It sure would've been nice to hear more of those. Give me a call—let me make a set list for you sometime. It would have things such as "Impressed" and "Within Your Reach" and "Can't Hardly Wait" and "Treatment Bound" and "Talent Show" on it. Remember those?

Man, I was happy just to get "I Will Dare" and "Swinging Party" and "MPLS" and "Chilton"—thanks for those. A couple hours of some truly grand rock & roll (you can't call it punk anymore after you turn 40, y'know). Shit, I'm just glad you're still alive—the whole band could've ended up like Bob. Every now and then, I'll hear from Bob, actually. He visits when I'm sleeping. Says he likes your new stuff, but that he hasn't spoken with Tommy ever since he joined Guns N' Roses. Can't say I blame him. Chris is happy, we hear—he makes more money painting than he ever did in the Mats. Some of his canvases sell for more than $100K, though they're really ugly and disturbing, stuff Goth kids would love if they could afford it.

Anyway, set lists—think about it. Call me. Your friend, Rich Kane


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