Paul Westerberg – Virgin Records, Boston, MA – 5/1/02
At the corner of Mass Ave. and Newbury, amidst the CD racks and displays in the space that was a tower and now claims to be a virgin, a disheveled dude in a faded pink shirt and a jean jacket took over a would-be stage in the corner of the room. At a time more suitable for dinner than a concert, and armed with only a guitar, (he switched between electric and acoustic) he proved why he’s one of the greatest songwriters of his generation.
The two-hundred or so fans who bore the indignity of the venue and not being able to drink at a Paul Westerberg show were rewarded with a generous 75 minute set. A cover of Dylan’s All I wanna do was a treat and material from his two new CDs ( Stereo and Mono which he signed copies of afterwards) suggested these were the best discs he’s made as a solo artist. Among the standout cuts was a wrenching tale of a single mother committing suicide and a playful song about pharmaceuticals.
The loyal fans were interested in the new material but passionate about the old and Paul delivered a fistful of Replacements nuggets ranging from the silly ( Hootenanny) to the sublime ( Unsatisfied ). As the ‘Mats were always delightfully sloppy, the best moments were the mistakes and Paul seemed to savor them as much as the audience did. He paused after a sour note in Alex Chilton to have a laugh at himself and during the gorgeous Skyway, he realized he forgot the bit about the “Stupid hat and gloves” so he doubled back and got it.
Whether conveying desperation like in Someone Take the Wheel or longing as in Waitin’ for Somebody or laughing at futility with tunes like Let the Bad Times Roll , Westerberg’s voice cracked with earnest emotion and his guitar cut through the sterile air of a corporate shell straight to the guts of all lucky enough to realize one of the twelve shows on this tour was in Boston.