To say it’s been a tough year and half for music lovers is an understatement of course, but adjusting to the new pandemic-era normal, especially when it comes to concert-going, is far from over. For those who love the live band experience, choices must be made, and for a lot of us, outdoor versus indoor is where we draw the line. (We passed on one of our favorite bands, the Black Crowes at the Forum recently, for this reason). All-vaxxed/all-masked events are also on the OK list for many, but if you do go to these, keep in mind that vaccination is not always checked. And masks? Expect about 50 percent or less compliance. Nobody is really enforcing them, especially at outdoor events, though there is currently a mandate for big outdoor “mega” events in place.
Which brings us to the Hella Mega Tour at Dodger Stadium last Friday. There was a Dodger-blue clad guy out front asking patrons to put their masks on as they entered the venue, but we saw them come off pretty quickly afterward as people walked through. And we get it. Dodger dogs and ice cold beer are really good. Eating and drinking are exceptions at music venues, just as they are at restaurants. But how many people do you see putting masks back on in between noshing when you’re dining? Not many. Politics aside, if we want concerts to stay, we have to do our part. Nine Inch Nails canceled their recent tour for a reason: big shows with thousands of people still aren’t exactly safe for bands, crew or fans, even if nobody really wants to say it.
Still, we are glad they decided to let the outdoor show go on after canceling last year. We were a bit bummed with the set times though, which saw Weezer open up at daylight (6:20 p.m. to be exact). The Elysian Park/Echo Park traffic –on a Friday– was horrendous and on this particular day there was also an accident on Sunset and Silver Lake boulevards, so anyone coming from the Hollywood area was probably running late.
What we did see from Weezer was wicked good, as always. As we noted in our review of their show at the Forum a few years ago, the L.A. rockers are one of the best live bands out there, still. Few combine hooky melodies with ironic yet relatable lyrics and a weird angsty joy on stage like they do. More and more, the band’s retro rock inspirations are influencing their sound (and apparently look, as Rivers Cuomo is sporting a mullet these days) and we are here for it. As the Foo Fighters Dee Gees thing also suggests, campy nostalgia nods feel good in these uncertain times. Some did not dig the Weezer covers album (we mostly loved it) but their take on Toto’s “Africa” is nearly as iconic as the original at this point, and the crowd howling at the top of their lungs as the sun went down proved it.
Not a big Fallout Boy fan (“Sugar We’re Goin’ Down” and “Dance, Dance” are catchy though) so we’ll just say this about their pyro-packed set: a lot of people really do like them. A lady in front of us was going crazy, singing and dancing and drinking like it was 2005 all over again. Unlike most of the people in the floor seats where we were, she was wearing a mask, until she started throwing up. We felt bad for her, but also hoped it wasn’t COVID-19 related, because these are things a coronavirus-cautious concert-goer thinks about now.
The worries of our first big concert since the virus was pretty much out of mind when Green Day took the stage. The show started with their walk-on track, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and it was fun to geek out and sing along under our masks to every overplayed verse, then headbang like Wayne and Garth to the instrumental part. There’s no “too cool” when it comes to the pure bliss of live music in pandemic times.
Singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool were tighter and brighter than ever as they stomped through the band’s punky ditties, each capturing the sharpness and urgency of their parts from albums including Dookie, Warning, Nimrod, and of course American Idiot. We could write a book about how that album foreshadowed what happened to our country in the years that followed, but it’s pathetically obvious to everyone, so we won’t.
Suffice to say the band’s rock opera release is not only powerful in variation and rendition, it’s proven to be one of the most important albums of all time. G.D. played Idiot tracks -and really everything- in an ecstatic way that felt like they’d been locked up for a while and finally let loose (because they have) and we, the audience really connected with that (because same). No rock show is worth risking your health for, but damn, this one came close. (It’s a week later and we feel fine, by the way). Music fans: please, please wear your masks and wear them right, so we can have more magical, dorky moments like this one, together.