It's always enjoyable watching an up-and-coming band prove their worth through their formative years. They tour relentlessly, put their all into everything they do for mere pittance, and wear their hunger on their sleeve with a sense of determination that's hard not to root for. [Text by Andrew, photos by Tracy.]
What's more enjoyable, though, is seeing what direction a band takes when their hunger for success has been paid for millions and millions of times over. Sure, much of the time, these bands venture into safe, profitable territory that finds record execs gleefully beating them into a pretty mold for the masses, but then there are curious cases like Weezer where you can help but wonder what it is exactly that fuels them after rock stardom's long been achieved. After witnessing their show at Mahaffey Theater last Friday, and a handful of performances beforehand, I still couldn't even come close to figuring it out.
Rivers Cuomo has played the ever-enigmatic face of the Weezer troupe since their early-'90s inception and still wears that hat proudly and with a sense of harmless ease and playful, on-stage panache that just makes his whole schtick even weirder. While most stars of his stature would hide backstage in the confines of a catered dressing room, on this night, Rivers takes the stage far before the house lights go down to check his mic, tape down a set list, and juggle a soccer ball just off the side of the stage, not once acknowledging the hundreds of eyes fixated on him throughout the theater.
Returning like nothing ever happened with his signature blue Stratocaster strapped around his puke-green "Members Only" jacket and the rest of his band in tow, Rivers launches into the opening chords of "My Name is Jonas" from their debut, The Blue Album.
It's quiet. Like, offensively quiet. Conversations with those next to me about how quiet it is are easy because it's so quiet. Cuomo's voice is the only discernible element over a muddled barrage of guitar fuzz and drums that kind of sound like Weezer, I think?
Thankfully, things pick up as the volume reaches a good-enough level by their fifth song, Pinkerton's "Tired of Sex," which absolutely crushes with its simple, but no less monstrous guitar riff accentuated by Rivers' pained, sex-less howls.
Weezer then rifles through a quick-fire succession of greatest hits pulled from all corners of their discography as well as a bone-throw B-side (1995's "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly") for good measure. The four-piece continues to pay due-diligence to their first two and most revered albums with classic tracks like "El Scorcho," "Say it Ain’t So," "Surf Wax America" and "Buddy Holly."
"The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn" could easily be Weezer's worst song recorded. Live, it's even more awful as they try to squeeze 20 different ideas into one single track including (but not limited to) awkward rapping from Rivers, painfully out of tune vocal harmonies, a funny-if-it-wasn't-so-awful falsetto attempt from guitarist Brian Bell, and who knows what else. I'm trying to block this unsavory bit out from an otherwise solid set.
Throughout all this, and far more than once, Rivers exits the stage before wandering through the Mahaffey's innards and reappearing on some random balcony as he belts out whatever song he's singing from his wireless mic. It's funny people scramble to high five and get iPhone pictures with him singing behind them, but Rivers doesn't notice, or care to notice. He's bored, it seems, like he's just trying to entertain himself as he sings the same songs he has a bajillion times before, and will after.
And, that's kind of the thing. I always feel like I'm being put on by Weezer. Like Rivers goes back stage and laughs with all his bandmates about the people in the crowd clamoring to take iPhone pics, or how no one really noticed him as he juggled his soccer ball onstage before the show, or how their last six albums were just experiments to see how mind-numbingly dumb you have to make your rock music sound to sell records. One can only hope. Either way, the joke's on us.
Excellent review, sorry I missed the concert.
I was fortunate to see Bonnie Raitt. Her stage presence was heart warming and her…
loved it! Well worth the $$.