Putting On The Ritz [Punk Vault, 1CD]
Live at the Ritz Theater, New York City; July 27, 1987. Very good soundboard.
Those who are lucky enough can relive their teenage angst with their Replacements bootlegs. And there can’t be many of you folks otherwise Paul Westerberg wouldn’t be thinking how nice it’d be if he’d sold a million or two more copies of his albums.
Then again, and it is probably an accepted fact by now, no one collects Replacement boots for their sonic quality or for Westerberg’s crystal clear voicings. Even with his distinctive raspy voice, he can slur as well as your Dylans and Springsteens.
That none of that is available on this bootleg doesn’t mean that Putting On The Ritz is a complete throwaway. By 1987, The Replacements not only already had a reputation as a great band, they had already released three of their best albums - Let it Be (1984), Tim (1985), and Pleased to Meet Me (1987).
However, Replacements boots that have been relatively easy to track down feature shows from 1984 (the well-known Inconcerated that surfaced on cassette and on Australia’s Black Cat label), 1989 (Goodbye Bozos and S***, Shower and Shave), and 1991 (Hangin’ It Up - which duplicated in better quality Disc 2 of Goodbye Bozos). For the collector then, Putting On The Ritz helps to fill a gap in the live history of the band.
For all the tales of drunkenness and wild playing that plagued the band’s early years, the group seemed pretty sober here. The band is pretty tight - probably helped in no small measure that a good number of songs generally appear on their live set - classic tunes like “Little Mascara,” “Swinging Party,” “The Ledge,” “Kiss Me on the Bus,” and “Hold My Life.”
Contrary to common belief, the band seemed very focused in its performance - one hardly detects a sense of fun or mischief even. Even a riotous affair such as “Tommy Gets his Tonsils Out” is played straight and “Takin’ a Ride,” the set closer, which should have brought the house down, sounds like a cramped version of Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz.”
But when they did cut loose, as on the honky tonkin’ “Sweet Home Chicago,” and especially on “Go,” they could get you where it hurt.
On tour to promote Please to Meet Me, they also manages to throw in a couple of real oldies, “Lovelines” and “Within Your Reach” from Hootenanny, the throat wrenching “Go” from Stink, and “Takin’ a Ride” from Take Out the Trash. And it would be some time before tunes like “Within Your Reach” were aired again.
Listening to the tracks, one senses an attempt by The Mats to present a complete show - the mix and match between old and new songs generally works with a fine balance between fast, slow, and bluesy material. The latter with songs like “Lovelines” and “Nightclub Jitters” really show how adept the band was at playing the barroom circuit.
At the end of the day, this isn’t the rip-roaring set that helped to cement the legend of The Replacements. It is notable more for the songs that generally don’t appear on other boots, like the much sought-after “If Only I was Lonely” than for the so-called standards. Fans can take pride in knowing that “Another Girl, Another Planet” was being played back as far as 1987. - Stephen Tan (August 1998 issue of Live! Music Review)