By MIKEL TOOMBS
“Never traveled far,” Replacements singer-guitarist Paul Westerberg sang in the set-closer “Alex Chilton” Sunday at Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival, “without a little Big Star.”
No matter how spectacular The Replacements’ early-evening set at the Main Stage (“We’re a bar band,” bassist Tommy Stinson complained about performing without the cover of darkness) might have been, the ‘80s punk icons had nothing on Big Star’s Third, which convened later Sunday at Seattle Center’s Mural Stage.
“I want to make an album of real genius, to sit alongside the Stones’ ‘Exile On Main Street’ and Big Star’s ‘Third’,” R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck declared in 1991 about the album that many considered to be a solo album by the now-late Chilton.
And real genius it was here Sunday, with Big Star drummer Jody Stephens sitting alongside the likes of Buck, musical director Chris Stamey (the dBs), Mike Mills (also R.E.M.), Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, various members of Seattle’s Posies and, most revelatory, North Carolina singer Skylar Gudasz, in a glorious re-creation of the Memphis band’s 1974 pop opus, also known as “Sister Lovers.”
Backed by superb local string and brass players, Big Star’s Third played the album, which featured a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale,” in its entirety, with bonus versions of “I Am the Cosmos” (by Big Star’s Chris Bell) and Alex Chilton’s enduringly charming “September Gurls.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Mikel Toombs is a frequent contributor to GeneStout.com. Read his recent post on 5 Seconds of Summer here.)