Live: Weezer And The Flaming Lips Share And Share Alike At The PNC Arts Center

Weezer/Flaming Lips w/Yeasayer
PNC Bank Arts Center
Thursday, July 28

Better than: Not seeing Bush at the Bowery Ballroom.

It's extremely easy to forget the advantages of an large-scale concert if you've gone, say, a decade eschewing such shows. Massive venues with lawn seating (and ticket checkpoints at every intersection, of which there are about 20) lose their luster once the intimacy (and relative lack of expense) of club shows becomes an expectation rather than merely an appeal, and the performative transition involved in scaling up often changes the nature of a band's performance.

Last night's Weezer/Flaming Lips double bill at the PNC Bank Arts Center was a rejoinder to that sometimes-prevailing attitude. Here was a show that could only have worked in this sort of venue, playing to the strengths of the setup and even benefiting from its drawbacks.

For example, only in a venue so diffuse could Rivers Cuomo not only bring the Flaming Lips ("We used to go see them play; now we're up here," he reflected at one point) to play for a largely Weezer-hungry crowd, but share headlining duties and alternate songs without an audience revolt. This is not to say that Flaming Lips fans were not in attendance; rather, they were simply outnumbered, particularly in the seated part of the venue. No amount of spectacle (of which there was plenty) was going to make Wayne Coyne's attempt to have the crowd sing "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" successful, because not enough of the fans within his earshot knew the words. But the Twitter-whining and bathroom-breaking of folks who wanted a Weezer show did not have the marked visual effect on the crowd that it would have had elsewhere. (The lawn crowd, it should be noted, was more openminded, or perhaps merely more forgiving.)

From a certain angle, the bill made perfect sense. Weezer have been fans of the Flaming Lips for at least fifteen years, having hired Dave Fridmann to help mix Pinkerton on the basis of their love for his production on early Lips records. And though the pothead jam-pop of the Flaming Lips doesn't quite have its full slow-burn film-score buildup when it's intercut with trios of Weezer's one-and-done pop songs, the alternation also prevented Coyne and co. from getting too spacey and detaching from the crowd entirely. And 1996 Rivers Cuomo would have been just as thrilled as 2011 Rivers Cuomo was to surf the crowd in one of Coyne's space bubbles while the two bands united to cover "Sweet Leaf." Somewhere in the crowd, the kid who'll grow up to be the millennials' Chuck Klosterman was having a life-changing experience.

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