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Tommy Stinson At The Bowery Electric, Thursday, October 14th, 2021, Reviewed

Tommy Stinson: From Zero To Stupendous

Without wishing to damn the former Replacement’s bassist Tommy Stinson with faint praise, yesterday evening at the Bowery Electric was the best rock concert I’ve seen in years and years (since Jack White at Radio City if you’re keeping track). This blows away the last coupla times I saw Guns N Roses, blows away the Replacements reunion, and, truly faint praise, is vastly superior to the Foo Fighters gig at MSG last June.

For a rock lover, these are bad times indeed. Whether emo or Americana, country rock or grunge lite, hair metal or hardcore, the music hasn’t the tunes it needs, and it doesn’t have the attitude it needs to sell itself. Tommy has both in abundance, he exemplifies the charm and self-deprecation that amounts to absolute confidence in his skillset and he offers it up as a testament to everything that matters about rock music. With just a guitar and a cameraman (he filmed it for a streaming PPV in January -deciding to record a live show because he doesn’t like performing without an audience, “I’m not that guy”) he gave us a devastating set of lost loves, strip clubs, topped by the penultimate devastation, “The Man Who Drank Himself To Death” which seems to be a heartbreaking song documenting the loss of his big brother and legendary Replacements guitarist Bob Stinson, who died at the age of 35.

It wasn’t just Tommy last night. Both opening acts were great. It was an early evening at Bowery Electric (a dance party was taking over the room by 930pm), and the doors were at 630, I arrived at 710pm and Jack West was already on stage, the still teen, lanky tween -discovered at a Pearl Jam concert, gave a fine performance including the song he wrote with Mike McCready and a first rate take on “Hotel Yorba”. In an alternate timeline, Dave + Sam have the look and sound of rock and roll superstars -they are the Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood of who the fuck are they? A cover of “Baptize Me over Elvis Presley’s Grave” was an easy going and graceful country rocker, even better was Motochrist “Lord Get Me Out of Milwaukee” with Sam loving every word -any time you’re rhyming “Milwaukee” with “the girls are stalky” I’m all in.

But it was Tommy’s night, the sets were played with barely a break and Tommy was on stage five minutes early, bursting into flames with a blues rocker, before forwarding into Bash And Pop’s “Bad News”. Working without a set list, and without a net, he picked out songs from his musical jukebox brain, and, as a man who actually dubs himself a bassist while performing for an hour on electric and acoustic guitar, he can hold the center by the middle without slopping over, can maneuver into any genre that holds his attention. Though not plugging the first rate 2020 album One Man Mutiny, every time he reached into that bag of tricks he’d find a “Zero To Stupid” waiting to be covered by Walker Hayes or “Match Made In Hell”‘s country slide brilliance.

Now a complaint: Tommy needs to knock his catalog into shape, it might be time for a Stinson complete including everything released, just so we don’t spend out life flipping between youtube and streaming platforms. He is a terrific songwriter with a great rock voice , an addictive undertow and a wit and smile that is a joy to watch. Also, a reputation as one of rock’s good guys (my Creem editor Bill Holdship swears by him). Stinson ended the evening with a dynamic and powerful “Friday Night (Is Killing Me)”, the penultimate number being the one about drinking yourself to death. Both define the old happy songs about sad things adage. Friday night might kill us, but Thursday evening is a blast.

Grade: A

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