Monday, June 7, 2010

Concert review: Weezer at Verge Festival

It took a special kind of music fan -- or an awful lot of alcohol, your choice -- to brave the cold, driving rain that hampered much of the Verge Festival on Saturday night. Those that stuck it out until the end were rewarded with a respite from the awful weather and a set by Weezer that, while it didn't do anything to silence its critics, did provide 75 minutes of solid entertainment.

Rivers Cuomo is now only a part-time guitarist in a live setting (drummer Pat Wilson takes over those duties) which allowed him to show off a geeky sort of charisma and showmanship that included -- but was not limited to -- splashing around in puddles, wrapping himself up in a tarp, and generally running and dancing around the stage with reckless abandon. I thought this was both captivating and off-putting. On the one hand it's great to see him having fun up there, and for him to be a shoegazer would make no sense while cranking out jams like "Pork and Beans" or "My Name is Jonas." But on the other -- and I may have said this before but it bears repeating -- Rivers reminds me of the theater geeks in high school trying way too hard to be funny and noticed. The tarp incident highlighted this point: it was as if he were trying to say "Look at me! Aren't I silly?" Weezer's music is good enough on its own; it doesn't need extra stage antics.

But I won't begrudge a guy for having fun, and if there was an overriding theme to this particular night that was definitely it.

The set included songs from every album, leaning heavily on the Blue Album but had only one from cult favorite
Pinkerton. Personally I think "El Scorcho" or even "The Good Life" would have fit in perfectly with the party vibe Weezer had going, but the show didn't suffer any without them. Opener "Hash Pipe" got the crowd moving right away, and they didn't let up for the remaining 16 songs. The songs didn't sound much different from their studio counterparts -- Rivers did take on Lil' Wayne's verse on "Can't Stop Partying" though -- but Weezer's music hasn't ever been about improvisation; it's been about playing catchy, rockin' power-pop perfect for dancing and singing along. Weezer did not disappoint on that one, and there wasn't a clunker in the entire set. Particular favorites of mine were "Troublemaker," from the mostly horrible Red Album, "Perfect Situation" from Make Believe, and "Say It Ain't So."

As for surprises, there really weren't any if you've checked the set lists beforehand. They tossed in a tease of Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher" which would have been more awesome if they played the whole song. Also played was their medley of "Kids" by MGMT and "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga. I like the former and despise the latter, but Weezer managed to polish a turd on "Poker Face."

After the final encore of "Island in the Sun" and "Buddy Holly" the age-diverse crowd left the Summerfest grounds with good vibes. Rain notwithstanding, it was a good way to spend a Saturday night.

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