Green Day is slowly fading into obscurity, Oasis suffered an explosive breakup, and Nirvana was pre-maturely disbanded in tragedy. Of all the 90’s alternative innovators, only one remains. Ironically, it’s the same band that was considered critically “dead on arrival” by the 21st century and commercially unviable by 2008. Weezer.
Yet, here we are. Living breathing witnesses to Weezer’s THIRD COMEBACK! Last year, the power pop quartet topped the alternative charts with their 21 pilots inspired electro-pop hit “Feels Like Summer”, scoring (as of July 23rd) nearly 30 million streams on Spotify alone. This marks the highest streaming song in their discography since 2005’s “Beverly Hills.” Now, in 2018, the band is well on their way to topping the Alternative Charts yet again with their cover of “Africa” by Toto. If this timeline wasn’t unexpected enough, Weezer also scored their first top 100 hit in 9 YEARS with this song.
Thus set the stage for Weezer’s Summer 2018 Tour with Pixies. First and foremost, although this tour is technically a co-headliner with Pixies, Black Francis had no delusions about who most people were coming to see. Graciously performing before Weezer with a tight 22 song set, the Pixies played nearly every tune back to back seemingly in order to minimize the amount of time before Weezer took the stage. This was done with good reason to. Weezer, usually a sparingly grandiose band, was in the mood to celebrate both their newfound popularity and enduring success. Once Pixies had completed their final bows and exited the stage, a curtain was dropped to reveal tens of workers manically setting up an intricate scene. As the minutes wore on, small details began to spring out. A wood paneled wall here. A pennant adorned with the name “Bell” over there. Suddenly, it all came together. This was the Happy Days Set!
As if on cue, the stage lights flickered into darkness, sans a phosphorescent “W” to the left of the band. A familiar voice engulfed the stadium, sheepishly announcing the arrival of “Kenosha, Wisconsin’s very own WEEZER!” Now, the crowd could hardly contain themselves. For more than 2 hours, they had patiently waited for the main event. They were restless and in the mood to sing. As Rivers Cuomo’s voice finally launched into the first lines of “Buddy Holly”, no one could be sure of what he was actually saying. From the lawn, the cacophony of voices belting out “Buddy Holly” to the high heavens overwhelmed the sound of the band. It was impossible to hear Pat’s backing beats or Rivers’s power chords, yet the music was so ingrained in each concert-goers head that the band, at that moment, was unnecessary. This was a cathartic celebration of nostalgia, and Weezer was simply a vessel to start the festivities.
Although nothing could top the unbridled energy of “Buddy Holly”, “Beverly Hills” proved to be a worthy follow up song. Although much maligned in its time for its pop-rock sensibilities, it seems Weezer fans have largely embraced the song since. How could they not?! Live, the song is a powerhouse stadium rocker composed exclusively of hooks. It’s call and response chorus of “gimme gimmes” is impossible to resist, no matter how cynical you may be. While most other songs of the night remained true to their studio recordings, Rivers took the opportunity during this song to improvise. Immediately following Brian Bell’s voicebox solo, Rivers launched into a brief, yet explosive demonstration of his guitar prowess. It really is a shame that Rivers is such a structured player, as he is undoubtedly one of the finest and most knowledgeable rock musicians of our time. His solo’s, although sparing, were some of the standout moments of the entire show.
From here on out, the hits did not stop. Straight after “Beverly Hills”, Weezer transitioned into “Pork and Beans”, as if to remind the audience that the band’s longevity spans more than just five or six years in the 90s. The inclusion of 2010’s “If You’re Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To)” tested this fact a bit, as the crowd grew noticeably quieter during the song. While die-hard Weezer fans acknowledge the tune as a choice cut on the otherwise abysmal “Raditude”, others failed to recognize it at all. This was all part of Weezer’s plan, however.
Weezer’s 2018 Summer tour can be accurately summed up in a simple statistic. 60% hits, 20% deep cuts, and 20% Covers. The hits are exactly what you’d expect. “Say it Ain’t So”, “Island in the Sun”, “Hash Pipe”, “Undone”, the list goes on. These are standard fare for most recent Weezer concerts and are surefire crowd-pleasers. What’s more exciting, however, is Weezer’s decision to include lesser known songs such as “Burndt Jam”, “Why Bother”, and “Keep in Fishin’” in their setlist. One of the most complained about topics during Weezer’s last tour was their adherence to an unchanging setlist, so it’s nice to see the band switching things up every concert. While PNC was treated to the aforementioned deep cut off of Pinkerton, others got to enjoy Red Album’s “Troublemaker”, Blue Album B-Side “Susanne”, or a rare rendition of the Pinkerton B-Side “You Gave Your Love to Me Softly” (a personal favorite).
The last piece of the puzzle is, of course, the covers. Weezer has always been a band to embrace other’s music, recording studio quality versions of “Paranoid Android” and “I Woke up in Love This Morning” to name just a couple. For this tour, Weezer chose to perform “Happy Together” by The Turtles a half step down. The result was an eerie and almost possessive take on the typically bubblegum song. It’s amazing how much meaning can change with just a tweak of key and singing style. Rivers further impressed the crowd with a seamless transition into Green Day’s “Longview”, drawing rapturous applause from the audience. Later, Rivers scootered off the stage into the audience while wearing a sailor outfit (you heard me right) for a short acoustic set. Once again, he surprised the crowd with an adept rendition of “Take on Me.” For all the talk of Rivers being socially awkward, he is undeniably in tune with what’s nostalgically popular.
Of course, Weezer saved the best for last. Taking a rare mike break, Rivers posed a simple question to the audience. “Where are we going? No Idea, huh? We’re going south… like southern hemisphere.” Of course, everyone knew the answer. AFRICA!
“We’re going to Africa!”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYFIjNrZj6U
Thus, Weezer completed their tour de force. From “My Name is Jonas” to “Africa”, the band is still hitting their stride at 26 years old. Although Rivers Cuomo looks more Woody Allen than Buddy Holly nowadays, his youthful exuberance seems to have returned with this tour. One can only hope that Weezer keeps up this late-career upward trajectory, because truly, no one’s teenage years would be complete without Pinkerton, Blue Album, and, as of now, a little bit of “Africa.”
By Bennett Rosner
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