Live: Weezer Do Pinkerton (And Other Songs They Clearly Like More) At Roseland
Better Than: Doing Make Believe in its entirety
It's Saturday night, so Rivers Cuomo is makin' Louise. "Hop on board the Weezer Time Machine!" he bellows, to an absurdly packed Roseland crowd here on the second night of the Memories Tour Driven by State Farm (featuring some sort of photo booth and samples of a disturbingly aquamarine-toilet-water-colored Vitamin Water flavor, neither of which I want anything to do with), comprising back-to-back full readings of the band's self-titled 1994 debut "Blue Album" (Friday night) and 1996's reviled-then-deified follow-up, Pinkerton (tonight). But first, a suite of career-spanning songs Rivers and the boys seem to enjoy playing way more.
We begin tonight with the (quoting, not scare-quoting) "greatest hits" set, the aforementioned Weezer Time Machine, moving methodically backward starting from this year's Hurley, a huge backdrop of, yes, a grinning Jorge Garcia briefly covering up that giant lit-up W logo as they tear through "Memories"; Cuomo is super jazzed, virtually screaming the bridge and announcing every song thereafter with, say, "2009! The 'Red Album'!" as "Pork and Beans" lurches delightfully into existence. (That was 2008, actually -- '09 was Raditude, though no one can blame him for wanting to forget it.) By the third song (the absurdist multi-suite "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived"), Cuomo is taking one of many first-set trips into the VIP area off to one side about halfway to the back of the house, high-fiving and backslapping and generally Meeting His Public while having the time of his life.
Weezer's post-Pinkerton output improves considerably when reduced to mostly one song per album -- "Hash Pipe" and "Dope Nose" both blunt, graceless, thoroughly rousing -- and we hit a sweet spot when Cuomo starts howling "B-sides!" -- "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly" and "Suzanne," both perfect, maniacally overdriven grunge-era pop songs, stand with anything from Weezer's golden age. Your one "Blue Album" cut is the loping, uncharacteristically reflective "Only in Dreams," their own "Free Bird." The sound is huge, enveloping, harsh, metallic, and entirely appropriate. Everyone, from the dudes onstage on, is thoroughly enjoying themselves.
The Rivers Cuomo who emerges to blow through Pinkerton is a far different animal -- no stage banter, no VIP-area trips, very little dancing, no sense of unquenchable delight. Just a dude gripping his guitar tight and roaring it out. It's an incredibly faithful recreation, almost photorealistic, not a hair out of place, the bouncing power pop of "Why Bother" ramming into the power-ballad grandeur of "Across the Sea" ramming into the titanic self-loathing sing-a-long of "The Good Life," as bombastic a three-song sequence as the '90s produced. You can argue Cuomo's not goofing around because he's committed to getting it right, and the punch-drunk crowd is certainly happy to recreate all the record's goofier moments, particularly all the Muppet-esque yelps decorating "El Scorcho." And finally shedding his guitar for "Falling for You," Cuomo perks up, untucking his shirt and hopping around a bit -- a far cry from his demeanor an hour ago, but welcome nonetheless.
No encore or adornment here, alas -- the show ends as the record does, with "Butterfly," the rest of the band shuffling offstage as Cuomo grabs an acoustic guitar and sings "I'm sorry for what I did/I did what my body told me to/I didn't mean to do you harm," which is, upon reflection, a profoundly disturbing refrain. At song's end he lifts his guitar high and bows, to mass audience euphoria, but he offers no warming banter even then, making his last words to us "I'm sorry/I'm sorry/I'm sorry."
Critical Bias: I sang along with the Pinkerton stuff in its near-entirety. Most singing I've done at a concert in years, possibly ever.
Overheard: "Which was better, tonight or last night? Oh, forget it -- you probably don't remember last night."
Random Notebook Dump: Cuomo changes the line in "Suzanne" that goes "Even Izzy, Slash, and Axl Rose" to "Even Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose," which I'm sure Kurt appreciates.
Pork and Beans
The Greatest Man That Ever Lived
You Gave Your Love to Me Softly
Only in Dreams
Tired of Sex
No Other One
Across the Sea
The Good Life
Falling for You