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Replacements singer Paul Westerberg punks Maple Leafs fans

By Allan Muir

Short of playing "Freebird," the surest way for a band to get a reaction from a crowd is with a gratuitous mention of how much the musicians love the town they're playing in, followed by an assurance that it is much better than anyplace else they've ever visited.

Sucking up to the locals is probably the oldest gimmick in showbiz, which is what makes Spinal Tap's send-up of the routine on The Simpsons so spot on. (Yeah, the link is in German, but you get the bedeutung.)

But like everything else these days, the ante's gotten a little higher. It's no longer enough simply to say how much you love the town you're in. You have to back it up by wearing the gear.

Everybody does it. Taylor Swift. Shania Twain. Even former Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten ditched the torn wool sweater to sport the home team's colors on a trip to Dallas in early '90s.

Johnny Rotten (Photo courtesy Jeff Kovarsky)

But not Paul Westerberg.

Reuniting with the surviving members of the Replacements in Toronto last weekend for the band's first shows in 22 years, the iconoclastic performer proved that he's still more willing to provoke a crowd than to suck up to it. So of course when he came out for the encore wearing a hockey sweater, he wore the colors of the hated Canadiens.

Genius.

"There were some boos, but I heard a lot of people laughing, too," said Jeremy Aslan, who was at the gig. "I think some people got it."

Well done, Paul. Don't ever grow up.

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