Last night was something like my 40th set of music in under a week, and it came on the heels of my second night with My Bloody Valentine (Roseland was amazing). But still it was never in danger of being overlooked: Wednesday was my first evening with Weezer, and Weezer’s first with Madison Square Garden (Rivers called it “a dream”). For both of us, though, it was some years too late. That’s not for any reasons of performance stamina or proficiency on the band’s part: when the material is right, Weezer’s infectious, vulnerable pop is powerful as ever. Which is saying something. Namely, it’s saying a Weezer show is as good as its setlist. And mostly last night’s selection was pretty OK: the show opened with the Blue album’s “My Name Is Jonas,” and quickly hit my money spot (i.e. anything off Pinkerton) with “Pink Triangle.” Singing “I’m dumb she’s a lesbian” with an arena, you should try it sometime. And for the rest of the night, as long as we were clear of the mostly unfortunate Red Album, it clicked.
The years have been good for some things, of course, like a critical reevaluation for the aforementioned second LP, the band’s ability to command tour revenue far beyond the peanuts they got a decade ago, and the winning of lots and lots of fans who, as Weezer ’08 has shown time and again, they want to impress. And so they aimed to entertain, dressing the part with white jumpsuits (stripped to reveal red versions after the photo pit closed) while Rivers rocked that silly mustache (expected) and a yarmulke-sized bald spot (quite the opposite). The stage had two tiers, and Cuomo had a trampoline which he used both as a platform for jumping and a bed for supine soloing. When not laying down, Rivers solos came with arched backs and “Oh” faces.
A good number of songs saw Rivers give up vocal duty to the band, including “El Scorcho,” the only other Pinkerton track unfortunately, with Scott Shriner and Brian Bell doing most of the work. Others saw the vocals overtaken by a hits-loving audience. That included Blue album career-makers “Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain’t So,” and “Undone (The Sweater Song),” although the latter also featured Tom DeLonge singing lead on a few verses (his band Angels & Airwaves opened, and I was lucky enough to miss it). MSG seemed to enjoy Tom being out there about as much as I did, a shower of boos greeting his introduction; either the fans hate his band, or they thought he should be sitting bedside with Travis Barker. In my case the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Other guests making the stage included producer Jacknife Lee playing moog in Weezer uniform, and “30 or so” of NYC’s biggest Weezer fans, all toting instruments in Hootenanny renditions of the first encore’s “Island In The Sun” and “Beverly Hills.” And since Weezer is all about THE PEOPLE these days, the encore fit. But I wouldn’t mind a return inward. I wouldn’t mind reconnecting with =w= not because I have an internet connection, but because of their ability to express social anxieties and sexual frustrations are rarely expressed so melodically, pithily, and set to such insanely catchy hooks, all in under three-and-a-half minutes. But you know, like I said: Last night came a few years too late for the setlist I wanted. And for the most part, I didn’t mind settling for the mustache, the bald spot, and the hootenanny (boy, the candy).
I’ll leave you with a look at the setlist (yes, they covered Nirvana) and a spread of pics.
01 “My Name Is Jonas”
02 “Pink Triangle”
03 “Perfect Situation”
04 “Say It Ain’t So”
06 “Keep Fishin'”
08 “Undone (The Sweater Song)” (w/ Tom DeLonge)
09 “Pork And Beans”
11 “Dope Nose”
14 “Hash Pipe”
15 “El Scorcho”
16 “Morning Glory” (Oasis cover)
17 “Greatest Man That Ever Lived”
18 “Island In The Sun”*
19 “Beverly Hills”*
20 “Heart Songs” (playing on a red record player, kicked by Rivers mid-song)
21 “Sliver” (Nirvana cover)
21 “Buddy Holly”
* w/ 30 piece ensemble of instrument toting NYC Weezer fans