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Seven and a half years ago, my adolescent dream came true: I finally got to see Weezer, my childhood idols, perform in the flesh at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, NY. How surprising it was to see many stark differences in last night’s Hollywood outing. Five men on stage? Guitarist Brian Bell playing frequent synth parts? Drummer Pat Wilson manning a guitar for most of the show? Guest appearances by a pop singer and a rapper? And most shocking of all, a mostly-guitarless Rivers Cuomo prancing around stage, double-fisting a microphone, and engaging the audience with such extroversion (“Everybody get naked!”) that he presented himself as a – wait for it – rock star. Gone were the shaggy recluse beard and sparse, timid mutterings of 2002 Rivers Cuomo.

This time around Cuomo immediately livened up the stage with the opening “Hash Pipe,” hopping up and down as if he’s finally comfortable knowing he bestowed an entire generation with such an inspiration. Under the strobing lights and signature Weezer sign, fans hollered gleefully as the band immediately broke into Blue Album staple “Undone (The Sweater Song).” “Where’s my guitar? It’s Guitar Hero time! Gotta beat my high score,” Cuomo muttered satirically for the infamous “Sweater Song” monologue. It’s more than evident that his prior depressed persona is but a ghost.

And this makes perfect sense. Just as the audience demographic last night consisted mostly of current and former frat boys and sorority girls rather than geeks and emo kids – Weezer’s original, die-hard fan base – the band’s musical direction over the past two albums has veered away from their geeky, tongue-in-cheek roots, further refining and defining itself by more simplistic and shallow terms. Hearing the elementary, monosyllabic rhymes of newer singles such as the Red Album’s “Troublemaker” and “Pork and Beans” live easily cemented this notion. It’s frat house power-pop with emphasis on the beat and not the music. Brand new songs “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” and “Can’t Stop Partying” from their new release Raditude further confirmed Weezer’s in-with-the-new, mainstream attitude. Though guests Sara Bareilles and Chamillionaire collaborated with Weezer on the aforementioned songs, they are mere publicity accessories to the show.

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Thankfully Weezer, donned in uniform white hoodies, performed a generous dose of earlier material for those of us who have supported them from the beginning. Half of the Blue Album made it onto the set list, and even a track from the rarely performed masterpiece, Pinkerton. The playing was occasionally sloppy, such as on the botched intro to “My Name is Jonas.” But what they lacked in precision, they redeemed in stage presence. The Palladium’s acoustics successfully transposed the band’s stadium-destined sound to the mid-size venue, even without losing the abrasion of covers like Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and Blue’s “Song 2.”

Although “Buddy Holly” aptly closed the show, it was “Beverly Hills” that garnered the most loyal applause and raucous headbanging of the night. Ironically, this song, which sarcastically chronicles the aspirations of a superficial Beverly Hills lifestyle, conveys Weezer’s new attitude. They pioneered geek rock in their heyday for the very people they identified with when they were in high school: the bullied, the overshadowed, the inferior. As evidenced by the brief glimpse of their new album, Weezer’s musical evolution continues to cater to the cohort they so bluntly denounced on their debut album. Depressed, introverted Cuomo may not have been as fun in performance as he is now, but at least he stood on stage with honestly and meaning purpose – both for himself and his fans.

by Jory Spadea
[Photos: Todd Zimmer – zimfo]

Set List

Hash Pipe

Undone
(The Sweater Song)
Troublemaker

Surf Wax America

War Pigs
(Black Sabbath Cover)
Perfect Situation

(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You 

Say It Ain’t So

Why Bother?

My Name Is Jonas

Island in the Sun

Can’t Stop Partying
Photograph

Song 2 (Blur cover)
I’m Your Daddy

Pork and Beans

Beverly Hills



Encore
Kids (MGMT cover)
Poker Face (Lady Gaga cover)

Buddy Holly

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