[ATTENDED: December 3, 2016] Weezer
Comedian Hari Kondabolu has a funny bit called “How Weezer Broke My Heart.” He says that he was a huge fan in the late 1990s but when he went to the show a few years ago he discovered that their fanbase is still fourteen years old and that he was the creepy old dude–at 28! But he rejects that and says that Weezer are the creepy old dudes–forty-year old men singing songs that teenagers can relate to is really creepy.
Well, my show was full of college students (and at least one dad who brought his daughter who was either too young to drive or maybe they bond over Weezer–I didn’t ask–but more on them later). I may have been the creepy old dude, but since Rivers Cuomo and I are basically the same age, we’re both the creepy old dudes.
It was cool to like Weezer for about two years (circa 1996). But before and after it decidedly wasn’t. Nevertheless, I’ve always enjoyed them. I often wish that Rivers Cuomo would write more substantial songs (musically and lyrically since he studied classical composition and graduated with a B.A. in English from Harvard) but it’s hard to deny how much fun his dumb songs are.
I thought about seeing them this summer, but decided against it. However, when they announced they were playing in Bethlehem, a close venue that I like, I decided it was time to see them. I’d been checking their recent setlists (to see what albums they were laying songs from–I try to never look at actual songs), and I was bummed to see that they weren’t playing anything from Pinkerton, the cool person’s favorite Weezer album. In fact it seemed like the sets came mostly from their self titled albums (blue, green, red and white).
But whatever, because even if they weren’t playing my favorite album, I knew that they’d be playing a bunch of songs that I knew and liked, right?
Weezer is in a funny position of having a huge first album, but also having a successful new album some twenty years later and a bunch of hit singles in between. So the set included 6 songs from the new album (including two that they’d never played live before (!)) and five songs from their first album. The rest of the set was more or less the hits from throughout their career. And the crowd (which was really really packed in) went bananas for everything.
It took a pretty long time for them to set up after The Menzingers, but that’s because they had a whole “thing” going on. The drumkit was placed in a riser that looked like a lifeguard chair and what looked like a fence was put up on either side of him. And while we were waiting, the crowd went nuts as they lowered the giant W from the rafters.
The band opened with a tape of seagulls and then played “California Kids.” And the theme was pretty much set from there. Rivers Cuomo went off stage and rolled a cart with an umbrella and the Weezer W on it (I couldn’t actually see this until after the show), and I assume he stored his props in there.
They rocked through “Hash Pipe” one of my favorite Weezer singles. I had also forgotten how much I like “Pork and Beans” so it was great to hear that one, too.And then they went back to their debut (and a major crowd reaction) for “My Name is Jonas.”
Rivers paused briefly to tell us that they had never played the next song live before an audience before. And they launched into “Wind In Our Sail” a fun track off the new album. They followed that with “Jacked Up” a song with Rivers doing a great falsetto–I didn’t think he’d be able to manage it live but he had no problems.
All along the backing vocals were handled perfectly by guitarist Brian Bell and bassist
Scott Shriner. For some reason I didn’t realize that Brian Bell had been in the band since the beginning. He looks so different now (of course so does Rivers). And Shriner has been the band’s bassist since 2002, so it’s not like he’s a new guy either.
They played two songs from the album Make Believe: “Perfect Situation” and the fun rocker “Beverly Hills.” In between was “Thank God for Girls” from the new album. The girl behind me sang every single word more or less in my ear–including the spoken word part at the end.
And then Rivers told us he was going to play another song they’d never played in front of people before (I wonder why he chose Bethlehem to debut 2 songs). “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori” was a real surprise (glad I’d listened to the whole album a number of times before the show).
But the biggest reaction so far came when they started playing the album intro to “Undone“–the sound of all of those kids talking about a party. The song sounded great–as well all sang along.
Then the band settled info a brief “acoustic” song. Before the song, Rivers started strumming his guitar and singing “Beth” by Kiss. I was really surprised to hear it. And it all seemed to be a lead up to him singing “I think I hear them calling, Oh Bethlehem what can I do?”
Meanwhile drummer Pat Wilson (who was a lot of fun to watch up on his big chair) came back from behind his kit to play the bongos. Rivers had his acoustic guitar. He and Bell wore leis. And they played Islands in the Sun. About half way through the song, Pat grabbed Shriner’s bass and Scott played the bongos.
Then rivers came out with a red cape (it wasn’t costume changes like Weird Al or anything , but it was clearly fun for him to wear the cape or a sombrero or what have you). And they played “King of the World.” This segued into “Only in Dreams” from the debut.
And then I was totally psyched because the ended the set with a fantastic version of “Say It Ain’t So,” a terrific song from their debut.
They went for a break and came back on for the encore.
Rivers started playing the keyboards. It was a strange melody that I didn’t recognize. And then he started singing the words to “El Scorcho” a song from Pinkerton. I see that they did play it the night before in Boston, but before that they hadn’t played it for a few months, so that was pretty awesome. I could have used a few more from that album–“Pink Triangle” or “Getchoo,” but whatever, one song was great. And they ended with a whole room sing along of “Buddy Holly.”
And that was it. They played 18 songs, but their songs are pretty short and their set was under an hour and a half, by my count. That was pretty short after some of the mammoth shows I’ve seen recently. But it was a great sampler of Weezer and a fun night to be sure. I only wish that I had been able to get a little closer (and had been able to snag the $20 sale tickets).
So about the guy with his daughter. Leaving the theater is a freaking nightmare–it is a bottleneck from the get go. Rather than forcing my way through the crowd, I hung around up by the stage (maybe I’d get a second drumstick). Well, the crew was throwing stuff and people were begging for things. And then I saw one of the guys throw a pick. It landed a few feet in front of me and bounced on the shoe of the guy standing next to. He was looking down at his phone, oblivious. I wanted to grab it, but it was practically on his shoe. He looked down, puzzled, and then picked it up. I was bummed, until I saw him bring it over to his a girl at the stage hoping to get something (he later told me it was his daughter). She was so excited to get the pick that it immediately made me no longer bummed that I didn’t get it because it sure meant a lot more to her as she took as selfie with it.
So I left. There were people hanging all around the hotel–I’m not sure if something else was going on after the show, or what, but I’ve never seen so many people milling about.
The bottleneck always continues in the parking lot–I can’t get over ho hard it is to exit. But since the show was done by 10:30, and people were milling about, I managed to get home at a reasonable hour, like the old rocker that I am.
My Name Is Jonas
(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
Pork and Beans
Wind in Our Sail (Live debut)
Thank God for Girls
Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori (Live debut)
Undone – The Sweater Song
Island in the Sun (with Rivers’ acoustic solo version of Kiss’ “Beth”).(Matt and Scott swap instruments mid-song)
King of the World / Only in Dreams
Say It Ain’t So
El Scorcho (Rivers solo on piano for first verse)