The debate about whether the Replacements should get serious like a great rock 'n' roll band or keep fooling around like a great rock 'n' roll band has pretty much run its course. But if straightening up was the foregone decision, Friday's Hollywood Palladium concert showed that it doesn't mean dulling out.
How dull could a panorama of brilliant Paul Westerberg songs delivered with hurtling, headlong intensity by a guitar rock 'n' roll group with a pure vision and youthful unruliness be? The Minneapolis foursome didn't try to present a "new Replacements" in tune with the reflective nature of the new album "Don't Tell a Soul." They just kicked into gear and flew.
Westerberg appeared cranky at times, muttering sarcastic things about people's expectations of the band. But that made the later moments of tenderness and friendly contact all the sweeter, just as the ferocity of the attack made the melodies that survived all the more precious.
It wasn't uniformly astounding for the whole hour-plus. But in certain moments--most memorably in the encore when the four stood in full, bright light and launched the triumphant-sounding, bitter-themed "Bastards of Young"--the Replacements staked a claim to parity with the rock's all-time best. No fooling.
Also serving notice was the opening Royal Crescent Mob, a three-quarters-white Ohio band of funk disciples that soon had the unprepared crowd eagerly obeying singer David Ellison's orders to "\o7 Screeeeam!\f7 " They'll be at Club Lingerie on Sunday.