Jason Merritt, Getty Images "I've been to Coachella many times, on many…
- Posted on Nov 29th 2010 5:00PM by Jonathan Dekel
Noel Vasquez, Getty Images
Channeled through the deafening cheer that, for a second, seemed to shake Cuomo and the rest of Weezer, were years of frustration from an audience who watched their heroes descend into madness and come out the other side playing songs with Kenny G and the 'Chocolate Rain' dude. But beneath vapid tracks like 'Beverly Hills' still beats the heart of the young Weezer and to prove it they played their first two albums from start to finish.
The crowd came for authenticity and got the closest thing to it the band could give them, a new hope.
Weezer's eponymous 1994 debut -- better known as the 'Blue Album' -- was the first wave in alt-America's changing musical tide. After Kurt Cobain killed himself, the alternative nation turned its hopeful gaze to a short, awkward geek with a hippy name, KISS Army membership, D&D dice and heart-on-sleeve songs that would go on to define a new breed of young music fan.
Cuomo's music expressed the longing, frustration and innocence of adolescence through humour, ennui and frank lyricism that made no bones about being a geek in a jock world. Weezer caused the Zeitgeist to don horn-rimmed glasses and weep into its diary. 'Pinkerton' was less catchy but also more complex and emotionally honest than their smash breakthough, but the critical and popular reaction was harsh -- Rolling Stone readers even named 'Pinkerton' the second worst album of 1996. Cuomo responded by giving his public what they wanted: easily accessible lyrics with a heavy dose of irony. Predictably it worked, further cementing Cuomo's disillusionment.
As the band achieved pop stardom, longtime fans turned to 'Pinkerton' for solace. Critics followed suit, proclaiming it a '90s landmark and emo ground zero. So in the wake of joke offers to pack it in for large sums of money, Weezer decided to revist their past and let their fans know that they, too, love their old songs
Consistent with the theme of turning back time, both nights began with what was ostensibly a greatest hits set, featuring songs in a backwards timeline from their current indie release 'Hurly' -- the single 'Memories' is one of the catalysts for this tour -- to the beginning of their career, and included guest appearances from actor Jorge Garcia (who played 'Hurly' on 'Lost' and whose face graces the band's current album cover) and Bethany Cosentino of opener Best Coast.
Taking the opportunity to engage the audience, Cuomo came out like a fireball on the first night while taking a more standard linear approach to the song order -- sticking to the singles and counting down albums till they arrived at 'Blue.' By contrast, the second night featured a more subdued band set, but rewarded the audience for being patient for the 'Pinkerton' material by featuring several B-sides, including director Kevin Smith's favourite 'Suzanne.'
After a short break, longtime webmaster and 'unofficial fifth member' Karl Koch presented a slide show of early gig posters, set lists, demo tapes, artifacts and pictures from the band's formation right down to the recording and touring of the respective album. Koch's familiarity and fondness for the band, era and memorabilia, as well as the purposefully amateurish A/V Club aesthetic, made the 6,000+ capacity theatre feel like a small club akin to the way high-school pyrotechnics endear the Flaming Lips to thousands of festival goers.
"We've come a long way from Club Dump," Koch joked when showing an early poster advertising a gig with Joyride and That Dog -- and indeed they have. But these events are about going back, and when the band finally arrived -- rather unceremoniously on both nights -- the audience went appropriately wild.
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As enjoyable as it was to watch and relive the glory moments of a bygone era for both the group and their fans, it was never made clear if this was more than retro pastiche. But from 'My Name is Jonas' through the coda of closer 'Only in Dreams,' down the emotional roller coaster of 'Falling for You,' a spirited rendition of 'El Scorcho' and the epic reveal of the glimmering, naked hills behind the stage for 'Pinkerton' closer 'Butterfly,' Weezer reminded an amphitheatre full of fans why they stuck it out through the past several years of populist pop with flashes of former greatness.
For those who would consider Weezer's cachet marred by their latter-day output, these performances should put to rest any qualms. For all of his ironic collaborations, beyond the world-hardened exterior of Rivers Cuomo still lives that boy vying for the affection of a generation but too shy to go up and ask for it.