House of Blues
March 10, 2005
BY JASON SONGE
What is rock? Some people say the manifestation of it is Paul Westerberg. And if you've gotta put the horribly useless name and face of rock on someone, why not Westerberg? He fronted one of the best rock bands in the '80's and continued with a solo career that proved he could shine without his bandmates. He wrote "Dyslexic Heart" and "Waiting for Somebody," which are glossier and less immediate but possibly better than anything The Replacements ever did.
On albums Westerberg's attitude is so visceral that I can hear him teetering on the brink of his anxiety. Through his Replacements years and up until Thursday's concert at the House of Blues, Westerberg's devil-may-care attitude also dictated how live songs turned out. That didn't change last night. The good news was that the fun in Westerberg's songs was the sloppiness, the danger, the feeling that it could fall apart any second. That's rock n' roll, right Mick? It's no surprise Westerberg said in a magazine interview he always wished he could be a Rolling Stone. Throughout the concert Westerberg swayed around his microphone stand and screwed up chord progressions and missed a bunch of vocal notes. But, his attitude was, "F--- it." That was infectious at the end of the day. I think if everyone could have a beer at the end of the day with Westerberg, tell him our problems, and have him just say, "F--- it," we might be better off. Or, maybe that would just be a bad influence. Along with the attitude, Westerberg had a brash guitar sound that had the power of a chainsaw. It didn't sound like metal, but it felt like metal whenever he wanted to blow the crowd back a few steps.
Westerberg came onstage dressed in a jacket, scarf, silver sunglasses, and hat. I was confused. It wasn't THAT cold outside. But, as he was soon reduced to his jacket, I realized he was performing the "take one piece of clothing off per song" rock star diva exercise. Just like Michael Stipe and probably many others. The exercise worked. Everyone looks more important with a scarf, sunglasses and hat on.
Westerberg's swagger covered up his misgivings for a while, but after about ten songs, the concert was for the fans. The ones jumping up and down right in front. The ones singing along to every word, even the ones that Westerberg missed. I'm not a fan, so his careless playing and singing wasn't cute anymore. Also, the songs were only just catchy enough. Every one had a hook, but some of those hooks were pretty weak. The strength of the songs varied, as did Westerberg's commitment to them. Sometimes I really felt his scream, but other times his delivery seemed forced. Some highlights were "Kiss Me on the Bus," "Let the Bad Times Roll," and "Makin' Me Go," but "High Time" was when my interest went downhill. That was a boring song that said nothing.
But, I'm sure the fans will disagree. And that's fine. The show was for them, anyway.