Jason Merritt, Getty Images "I've been to Coachella many times, on many…
- Posted on Dec 19th 2010 12:30PM by Kenneth Partridge
C Flanigan, FilmMagic.com
Appropriately, Weezer is calling their five-city run of two-night nostalgia fests the 'Memories Tour,' and even more appropriately, the group opened both Roseland gigs with the tune 'Memories,' from their most recent album, 'Hurley.' Both nights, the song kicked off "greatest hits" sets that preceded the full-album recreations, and as Cuomo worked backward through the Weezer catalog, he tailored each night's selections to fit the album he was building toward.
Friday night, when the focus was the 'Blue Album'--Weezer's universally loved, mega-selling debut--Cuomo front-loaded the show with hits even the most casual Weezer fan would know: 'If You're Wondering If I Want You To (I Want You To),' 'Beverly Hills,' 'Keep Fishin'' and 'Island in the Sun.'
The following night, Weezer prefaced 'Pinkerton,' its dark, difficult second album -- a collection 'Rolling Stone' readers voted the second worst album of 1996, after Bush's 'Razorblade Suitcase' -- with lesser-known singles and B-sides, such as 'Jamie,' from an early rarities collection, and 'You Gave Your Love to Me Softly' and 'Susanne,' from the 'Angus' and 'Mallrats' film soundtracks.
Despite the divergent set lists, Weezer treated both "hits" segments roughly the same way. The band was in five-man mode, with usual drummer Patrick Wilson taking on second-guitar duties, leaving Cuomo to wander around the stage -- and indeed, the venue -- unencumbered. Cuomo bounced on a trampoline and made frequent trips into the audience, and during Friday's show, he ended 'Pork and Beans' at the soundboard in the middle of the room.
"Where my set list at?" he asked, having forgotten 'Beverly Hills' was up next.
Both nights, when Weezer came to the 2002's 'Maladroit' album, Cuomo passed on lead vocals, letting guitarist Brian Bell sing Friday's 'Keep Fishin'' and Wilson Saturday's 'Dope Nose.' This was in keeping with the instrument swapping Weezer has made a part of recent tours, as well as the general silliness that, while always present, has become one of the group's defining features.
During each night's intermission, Karl Koch, a longtime friend of the band, showed an album-appropriate slide show loaded with old photos and show flyers. While his presentations might only have been of interest to diehards, they offered a fascinating insider's look at Weezer's journey from rehearsing in the garage of a crummy L.A. bungalow to sharing stages with fellow '90s heroes Live and No Doubt.
Then came the full albums, towering works that cast Weezer's recent peaks as mere plateaus. Here, the 'Star Wars' comparison is once again useful: Weezer's run of 21st century albums, while intermittently good and at times great, is tantamount to George Lucas' trilogy of prequels. New-millennium Weezer is big and glossy, a purveyor of popcorn power-pop, but it lacks the heart of its original incarnation. It's the difference between Chewy and Jar Jar Binks.
Cuomo took the stage for Friday's 'Blue' run-through in the same navy T-shirt he wore on the disc's iconic cover. In 1994, Weezer was dealing with some heavy stuff -- breakups ('The World Has Turned And Left Me Here'), stepfathers ('Say It Ain't So') and wrecked knitwear ('Undone – the Sweater Song') -- but there remains a nerdy defiance in these 10 tracks. Cuomo had grown up on an ashram in Connecticut and fallen as a teenager for schlocky metal. From these inauspicious beginnings, he managed to score a record deal and convince Geffen to finance the recording of songs like 'In The Garage,' about playing Dungeons & Dragons and listening to Kiss. Cuomo is perhaps too talented to be seen as a true underdog, but the 'Blue Album' was a kind of win for the little guy. Friday's performance -- all outsized choruses, guitar crunch and stiff, behind-the-beat drumming -- felt like a victory lap.
'Pinkerton' is a little trickier. By 1996, Cuomo had experienced his inevitable Brian Wilson-style breakdown. Disenchanted with stardom, recovering from surgery to lengthen one of his legs and contemplating enrolling at Harvard University, where he would later earn a degree, he wrote an album of sad-sack songs loosely inspired by 'Madame Butterfly.' The record tanked, but as everyone knows, it was resurrected the following decade by a generation of emo kids for whom "oversharing" is a nonsense word.
'Pinkerton' is the record that launched a million crummy emo bands, and Saturday's performance was a reminder of why. Cuomo sang of self-pity and isolation with the same verve he'd mustered the night before, never letting the raw anger and sadness of the songs devolve into tortured naval-gazing. 'Why Bother?' and 'The Good Life' are anthemic tunes about giving up on love and feeling like, at 26, your past days are behind you.
That fear was unfounded. Cuomo is now happily married with a daughter, and Weezer is more popular than it's ever been. As for artistic relevance, we'll have to wait and see how many people line up in 2020 to hear the 'Red Album' or 'Raditude' in its entirety.
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