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The long-awaited Replacements reunion thrills in the chill

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It was an hour and forty minutes that die-hard Replacements fans had been waiting for for 23 years. The legendary Minnesota band played its first hometown gig in more two decades, and although the temperatures at Midway Stadium were downright chilly, reviews of the show suggest the 'Mats were red-hot.

Writing in the Pioneer Press, critic Ross Raihala, who called the Replacements "Minnesota's most-loved cult band," noted that "awful live performances are a huge part of the Replacements' legend." But he said the band was in top form in its 30-plus song set, performed before a screaming crowd of 14,000.

The Current's review said that the band "gave the audience exactly what they wanted," with a set that included their most well-known favorites as well as a few obscure cuts recognized by only the most devoted fans. The Current blog said the show-closing double encore, called "a pure ice-cream-sundae-with-cherry-on-top finale for all those fans who’ve waited years to see them perform," began with Paul Westerberg beginning with a solo on “Skyway” on a 12-string guitar, then he "...brought out the band for “Left of the Dial,” “Alex Chilton,” and a second encore of the ultimate underdog anthem “Unsatisfied.”"

The Star Tribune story included interviews with fans, many of them wearing gloves, hoodies, scarves and stocking caps in the brisk weather.

They’re playing like they never stopped playing together," said Zach DeBoer, 25, of Sioux Falls, S.D., who paid $120 for a $50 ticket. "Honestly, this is a dream come true. I can safely crown this as the best concert I’ve ever seen.”

Nathan Voerding, 51, of St. Paul, attended the band's last Twin Cities show, at the Orpheum in 1991.

“They owe us from that show,” he told the newspaper. “They were hammered. It was the worst concert ever.”

Just before the quartet took the stage, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman declared it Replacements Day in St. Paul. Writing in Minnpost, writer Jim Walsh, who has authored two books about the band, put the night in cultural perspective. "So why," he asks, "does so much excitement surround this show? Part of the answer lies in the fact that everyone’s getting older. Life feels more precious and fragile, and for so many people who discovered it 33 years or three months ago, the Replacements’ music is an extremely intense experience for very personal reasons."

The Replacements were not the only musical act on the stage in St. Paul on Saturday night. The Pioneer Press published a review of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra performance, noting that the orchestra has been reconfigured after a number of musicians took early retirement as part of last year's contract settlement.

Writer Rob Hubbard opened his review of the performance at the Ordway with the line, "Ladies and gentlemen, the replacements are in the house," to acknowledge the change in the musicians and have a little fun with the musical juxtaposition. Like the crowd at Midway Stadium, the Ordway audience was described as "enthusiastic," and that was without any beer.

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