Weezer is a band with a complicated history. They have spent most of their career alternating between “cult” band and arena act with radio singles. In 2014, 20 years after their pitch-perfect, self-titled debut, we can safely say that Rivers Cuomo and company are in the midst of a comeback, given their new record, Everything Will Be Alright In The End, their most solid in ten years (yes, “Beverly Hills” was almost ten years ago) and the growing consensus that their early work was among the best of its period (something their many obsessive fans have known for some time). Within the last few years, the band even did a tour centered on the music of their first two records, and their recent single, “Back To The Shack,” in a bizarre moment of self-awareness, admits that the band went astray and alludes to “rockin’ out like it’s ’94.”
At New York’s mid-sized Bowery Ballroom, a roomful of fans were treated to a performance more intimate than those of Weezer’s usual arena tours. In another unusual treat, the band opened for themselves with an acoustic set, Cuomo taking the stage solo to perform the classic “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly” (important to the ’90s generation for playing during the prom scene of the film Angus). He then took a page from David Byrne in Stop Making Sense by introducing the band members one by one, performing a song with each before the next member was brought on. Guitarist Brian Bell joined for “Why Bother?” Bassist Scott Shriner (playing through an injury, his hand wrapped in bandage) then came out to sing the bizarre b-side “King.” By the time drummer Pat Wilson joined in on a snare drum covered by a blanket, they kicked into “El Scorcho” and this writer, along with the whole room, was singing at the top of his lungs.
There they were, playing off-the-cuff acoustic versions and looking happy about it. I had seen this same lineup nine years ago, and they looked absolutely miserable. But at the Bowery, the band seemed jovial, ripping into old tunes from their debut and its follow-up, Pinkerton, giving a shout out to producer Ric Ocasek, formerly of the Cars, who helped create their legendary debut at Electric Lady Studios down the street in the Village.
After a short break, the band returned to the stage with their electric set-up (augmented by Daniel Brummel of Ozma on guitar, keys and percussion), ripping right into “Ain’t Got Nobody,” the new record’s opener. The old hits were now over and the band was exuberantly performing their new record from the sweet pop of “Lonely Girl” to the topically bizarre “The British Are Coming.” Singer Lizzy Plapinger from the band MS MR joined the band on “Go Away,” singing the part performed by Best Coast on the album. New material like the catchy “Cleopatra” and “Da Vinci” (which boasts the hilarious chorus of “Da Vinci couldn’t paint you/Stephen Hawking couldn’t explain you”) sounded fresh and exciting.
By the time they made it to the closing rock opera trilogy, Shriner was boasting a double-neck bass guitar so the band could rip into the Thin Lizzy-esque guitar harmonies that close the album. Finally, the four Weezer members returned onstage to perform “Tired Of Sex,” Pinkerton’s timeless opener, and as Cuomo walked offstage, he flashed the Weezer hand signal, which was reciprocated throughout the crowd. They may not be the coolest band, but they really are loved.
– Jamie Frey