As my professor mentioned in my introduction to cartography class, there’s a distinct difference between artists who stick to the one thing they know best, continuing to push out products solely in that style, and artists who use varied stylistic influences to create innovative, invigorating art.
Weezer proved Sunday night at the Alliant Energy Center that they all belong squarely within the latter group of artists.
The pop rock group, featuring lead vocalist and guitarist Rivers Cuomo, drummer Patrick Wilson, guitarist Brian Bell and bassist Scott Shriner, closed out the evening’s musical offerings on a high note following performances from Basement and the Pixies.
While I ultimately spent half of Basement’s early set listening to the band from the security checkpoint line, the band’s set seemed to display characteristics of an elevated “basement show.” This, of course, is quite fitting to their name. I always admire groups who are able to take this often-beguiled genre and make it something worth listening to. With their short set, I wished I could hear a couple more songs to see what else the group is capable of live.
The same could not be said for the Pixies. While an incredibly influential group for the formation of modern alternative rock, their long set was incredibly inaccessible for a good portion of the audience.
Part of this was due to an improper sound mix which left the music deafening and incoherent. Coupled with lead vocalist Black Francis’ inability to pause the set and connect with the audience in between songs to gauge how they were liking things, I felt entirely out-of-sync with the performance.
There were even points when I legitimately questioned whether the lyrics Francis sang were English or Russian. Murmurings from around me confirmed that I was not alone in my critical assumptions. Again, this problem potentially could have been lessened through a more comprehensive sound, given the center’s wonky acoustic structure that is great for holding people but not amazing for holding concerts.
Weezer’s set, however, appeared to rectify any audio issues present in the Pixies’ set, evidenced as the foursome stepped out in front of the stage’s curtain to perform a barbershop-quartet style version of their hit single “Pork and Beans.” Not only was the singing crisp and impressive from each member, the choice of using a barbershop-quartet set the tone for the night to come.
Following the January release of “The Teal Album,” which consists of covers of popular songs, Weezer wisely decided to design the tour with a “throwback” aesthetic. The first set of songs were performed before the backdrop of a 1950’s style home, which was an apt setting for “Buddy Holly” and alerted the audience that they certainly should expect a narrative with the group’s set. Classics like “Africa” also found their way into this portion of the set, engaging the audience from the beginning of the set.
The kitchen set-up was peeled away to reveal a garage set-up for the next set of songs. Tunes chosen for this portion of the set would also feel at home in any garage or basement show, adding the the show’s structured narrative. The band utilized Black Sabbath and Tears for Fears covers during this time to help convey that vibe. The band also included their first single “Undone — The Sweater Song,” in this portion of the set, again confirming the idea that this portion represented a band just getting their feet wet.
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During the Black Sabbath number, Cuomo sent out on a boat, the S. S. Weezer, into the audience. Once docked ashore at the back of the arena, Cuomo pulled out an acoustic guitar and serenaded the crowd with “Perfect Situation” and “Stand By Me.” While my mind might have spent too long figuring out if this boat was supposed to be traveling through “rivers,” this was nevertheless a cool concert effect.
After these songs, the stage appeared decked out in full-on rock concert gear, complete with a large, lit-up “W” and pyrotechnics. Weezer still had many favorites to play by the time they reached this grand stage, including hits like “My Name is Jonas” and “Beverly Hills.” The hardcore 10-year-old version of me who played “My Name is Jonas” too many times on Guitar Hero since I couldn’t get past the first level may or may not have “fangirled” very hard and screamed all of the lyrics.
Weezer closed out the evening with something old and something new during their encore. “Surf Wax America” from their March release, “The Black Album,” kept the audience roused before the band inevitably played hit “Say It Ain’t So.”
Weezer showcased their finesse of style throughout each section of the show, making the evening an entirely enjoyable experience and cementing their ability to evolve as a band.