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Concert Review

The Guitar-Geek breaks down the Chicago gear

By 18.Sep.136 Comments

For those interested, both of you, here is a rundown of the gear Paul Westerberg used on stage in Chicago.

Paul starts out with a classic Gibson Les Paul Jr, single cutaway, and a single P-90 pickup. Hard to judge the vintage-ness of this one, they were produced from the 50’s through the 70’s, with a reissue in the past few years. My guess is this is not a reissue.

Gibson LP Jr

For I Don’t Know, he then breaks out a newer Gibson ES-355 with a hardtail bridge. I believe these were made in the past 15 years, and may be his favorite ‘brown guitar’ that he has talked about in interviews. It might also be the one Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls gave him at one point.

The next switch is for Merry Go Round, which brings out a ‘modified’ First Act ME-501. This is most likely the guitar purchased at Wal-Mart on the 2005 tour that lead to the Paul Westerberg signature model.

Up next is a Gibson SG Junior, with a hardtail bridge and a single P-90 pickup. Judging from the shape of the pickguard, this is an early 70’s guitar. (Compared to the beautiful early 60’s one he smashed at the Pantages in 2004, but I should let that go.)

After this, it’s a return to the brown ES-335 for the rest of the night.

The amps are a little trickier. There were more stacks than players on stage, so this is just a guess. To the left of the drum riser is a Soldano tube head on a Marshall 4×12, to the right a Fender brownface combo on top of another Marshall 4×12. No idea if these are both also on, or only for specific guitars.

And for Tommy Stinson, he played his ESP signature model up until the encore when he switched out for an old Ampeg Dan Armstrong plexiglass. He had 3 Ampeg stacks on stage, 2 behind him, and one behind Dave Minehan.

Speaking of Mr Minehan, he appeared to play the same black 70’s Gibson Les Paul Custom all night through a Hiwatt stack, and what appears to be a Matchless head also stacked on there. Josh Freese played some drums. They had the letters DW on them. I am an ignorant guitar player when it comes to drums, sorry.


  • Bea says:

    The SG junior is a 60s model. I believe the guitar he broke in 2004 was actually a single cut ’50s LP jr. The single cut junior Paul played in Chicago is definitely vintage 50s – no question. I think Dave’s LP custom was actually pretty new. I was at the fence and could see it up close. Too clean and the appointments too modern to have been vintage. I would not be surprised if it were made this year. Dave was playing a Hi-Tone amp and not a Hiwatt – . They never stopped making ES-335s but Paul’s was likely made sometime in the 80s or 90s as it’s definitely newer. It has dot inlays which were changed to block inlays in the 60s and 70s (most of that time anyway). I’ve seen video of Paul playing this guitar at sessions for Sucaine Grat. (1998 or 99) and I think he used it as Grandpaboy on Letterman in 2002. Yes I’m a gear nerd…and I have a ridiculous amount of gear.

  • Wolfdog says:

    I should have taken a closer look before the crowd crushed in. Thanks for the clarification on the Gibsons. They aren’t my strong suit, I am surrounded by various Fenders and G&Ls here. I have a lonely late 90’s LP Special walnut finish.

    From my pics, I am not quite clear on the head on top of the Hi-Tone stack (Matchless?) or what exactly what that brown face Fender was. (Super? Pro? Vibrolux? Too small to be a Concert, to large to be a Princeton or a Deluxe)

    If I were ever to break down and pop for a vintage Gibson, it would be one of those late 50’s/early 60’s P-90 growlers. Which is why I still shake my head at that one’s demise in 2004…

  • Bea says:

    I have a ’57 special and a ’56 junior. The ’56 is SMOKIN’ hot. But check this out – some years back I procured for my brother the one and only ’57 special that Paul used on Tim and Pleased to Meet Me. He’s pictured holding it on the back cover of Tim and he used it to perform on SNL in Jan. of ’86. Paul broke the neck on it and had it replaced with a Melody Maker neck as he was really into those at the time that he sold it to the dealer in my area (who I got it from). This would have been in May of 1989 on the morning after the ‘Mats played in my town. This guitar started out TV yellow, of course, but Paul painted the face of it navy blue. After the dealer in my area got it he sold it briefly to his guitar tech who refinished it an orange red color which is what it looks like to this day. Later the tech sold it back to the dealer and years later when I knew this dealer was probably in need of some cash I offered him $1100 for it and then gave it to my brother who paid me back in installments. When I play along to Tim with this guitar it sounds spot on 😉

    I was not able to see what kind of Fender Paul had but it looks to be either a Super or a Pro. It’s hard to tell though from the pics. I don’t think anyone had Matchless. Pretty sure the other amp was a Sovtek.

  • Bea says:

    Sorry, Paul’s old LP Special was a ’55, not a ’57. The pickups in it AMAZINGLY sweeter than any other P-90s I’ve played.

  • Brad says:

    The Fender is a brownface Super run into the Marshall cab

  • Bea says:

    I should also point out that Paul likes to take off some of the letters of the logos on his amps so that it spells something else. So, the Soldano might become “dan” or in the case of the Riot Fest shows simply “no.” A Marshall amp might have a logo that says “hal,” “Ma” or “shall.” Kinda funny.